More aggressive McClellan leading Longhorns into season opener

Christian Corona

Rick Barnes and Sheldon McClellan have what some could call a love-hate relationship.

Barnes, the longtime Longhorns head coach, and McClellan, the team’s top returning scorer from last year’s 20-14 squad, don’t get along at practice nearly as well as they do off of the court.

“On the court, we’re not friends,” McClellan said. “In practice it’s something different. It’s like Rick knows nobody in practice. He has no love for anybody. Practices are worse than the games.”

McClellan averaged 11.3 points per game last year, behind only J’Covan Brown’s Big 12 best of 20.1 points per game. While most coaches usually have trouble getting a few players to shoot less, Barnes is charged with the task of convincing McClellan to stop passing up open jumpers.

“He can score. He’s just got to take shots,” Barnes said. “He is a natural scorer. He has a gift for it. He knows how to play without the ball. He just needs to get out of his comfort zone a little bit.”

The last time Barnes had this much trouble getting a player to be more aggressive taking shots, the guy got his number retired at the Frank Erwin Center, where Texas begins its season against Fresno State on Friday night.

Kevin Durant, I can’t tell you how many times we told him that he had to shoot it,” Barnes said. “Not that I’m comparing him to Sheldon, but I told Kevin, ‘You need to take this game over. Make me look good.’”

Barnes occasionally resorts to making the sophomore guard run what McClellan calls “Jacob Ladders” when he doesn’t take shots that he should. The method seems to be working.

“Last year it used to happen a lot,” McClellan said. “This year I’ve cut it down a little bit. I think it was last practice that he almost made me run for passing up a shot in the post. I’ve just been trying to be aggressive.”

Another tactic, more simple than making him run, seems to be just as effective.

“He calls me soft. I can’t stand it,” McClellan said. “When he calls me soft, I don’t know, I’m a whole new person. After he calls me soft, I change for the rest of the practice. When he calls me soft, I lose it. I play stronger. I play better. I don’t know, it’s just something about that word. I just don’t like being called soft. I hate that word.”

Even if he’s in a slump during a game, McClellan said that he won’t stop looking for and taking his share of shots. That’s something he had trouble with last year, when he shot 44.8 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range, a mark he called horrible.

“I did get discouraged by that a lot last year, but as the season got further, I just kept shooting the ball,” McClellan said. “I think this year it’ll be better. I want to make the shot, but I won’t get discouraged if I keep missing.”

Most of the six newcomers to the team, like 6-foot-10-inch Prince Ibeh and 6-foot-9-inch Cameron Ridley, were added to provide size under the basket and alter opponents’ shots. There are skilled marksmen from the outside, such as freshmen guards Demarcus Holland and Javan Felix. But neither of them, along with the rest of the sharpshooters on the squad, may be as good of a shooter as McClellan.

“I think every guard on this team can hit the three consistently,” Holland said. “If anybody’s separated themselves, it’s Sheldon McClellan. He’s the best shooter on the team.”

McClellan agreed. Now he just needs to take enough shots this season to prove Holland right.

Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: McClellan more aggressive thanks to Barnes' tough love