With the suspended Myck Kabongo a non-factor this season, the burden of leadership has fallen to the rest of the Longhorns. And the player most people are looking to to take up that responsibility is Sheldon McClellan. The sophomore shooting guard leads Texas in scoring and is shooting a very respectable 81 percent from the free throw line. But no one can lead from the bench. And it’s hard to guide your team to victory when you only play a single minute.
Texas is not in need of statistics right now. It needs some toughness, and more importantly it needs confidence. The Longhorns have yet to win a conference game and are coming off a 20-point beat down at the hands of Iowa State in which McClellan played one minute without adding any statistics.
He may lead the Longhorns in scoring, but he is seventh on the team in field goal percentage this season. He is 18-for-52 in his past five games, shooting a pedestrian 34 percent from the field. This is accompanied by a 1-to-4 assist-to-turnover ratio over that span.
The current problem with McClellan is not in his points nor is it in his ability, but rather in his decision making. It’s not often that a team’s leading scorer plays just one minute in a conference game. But Rick Barnes clearly wasn’t going to allow McClellan to have another miserable shooting night from the field considering he was just three days removed from shooting 15 percent against West Virginia. McClellan was also a whopping 0-6 from three-point range against the Mountaineers.
McClellan has talent; it doesn’t take very long to watch him and figure that one out. He is a smooth free-throw shooter and has plenty of offensive tools to work with. He has the ability to shoot from outside as well as being able to drive and score in the paint. He is also has some decent length which he can use to disrupt plays on the defensive end or crash the boards for rebounds.
But he needs to take initiative. He needs to start being more assertive with his game. Someone with his skill set has no business playing a single minute in a conference game for a team that is still looking for a spark. It is imperative that he begin to make better decisions if Texas is going to turn this season around. His hands don’t have to be a one-way street to the basket.
Kabongo was supposed to come in and be the team’s creator. Now McClellan has to take on that role. Creating opportunities for his teammates will start to show instant results, and would be the first step in salvaging this season.
This team may not be able to rise to the level of past Texas teams, but it can pick up its play if it starts to play smarter basketball. That begins with a leader stepping up and making the kind of decisions and plays that teams can build on. The number one contender for that role is McClellan — he just has to embrace it.