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A look back at Eric McClellan's final season

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In a season full of ups and downs, Eric McClellan was one of the most consistent players the Zags had.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012 when Eric McClellan started his college basketball career at the University of Tulsa he was just a face of another college basketball player. No one at Gonzaga had heard his name, nor did they see him landing in their gym in 2014. McClellan was on the verge of having one of the worst college basketball stories ever, playing a year at Tulsa and spending two at Vanderbilt before being dismissed from the team. Just when his career seemed over and his education seemed hopeless, Mark Few and Gonzaga took a chance on him. Nonetheless, McClellan found his home here, and in just two short years with the Zags he made a lasting impression.

In a majority of his interviews, McClellan mentioned how blessed he was to be here, but in all reality it is Gonzaga that was blessed to have him. He provided a bright light on the court this season for the Zags. Let's take a trip back through what Eric McClellan accomplished this season.

There has been so much talk this season about Dranginis being the glue man, and McClellan often doesn’t get the recognition he deserved. McClellan really was another glue man for the Zags. He found himself starting as a shooting guard, but also filling in as the point guard whenever Josh Perkins needed a break. He averaged just under 30 minutes per game, making big plays on the offensive and defensive ends when he was on the court. There wasn’t a player more statistically consistent than McClellan. Take a look at his stats below. His stats from the conference season and the overall season don’t differ very much.


GP-GS

Min/G

FG%

3PT%

FT%

R/G

A/G

STL

BLK

PTS/G

Conference

18-18

27.6

.463

.302

.810

3.4

2.2

18

4

10.5

Overall

36-36

26.9

.475

.340

.781

3.2

2.0

31

9

10.7

The start to McClellan’s season was less than impressive, as he shot under 50% in eight of the first ten games, and he played in less than half of four of the games. To make it worse, the season started out with a few games that should have been easy wins, yet in most of these games McClellan didn’t show up to play.

Just when it started to look like McClellan wasn't going to play out as we had all expected, he flipped a switch and made us all believe in him again. There were plenty of games where McClellan was off offensively but he made his real impact on defense, shutting down the marquee players of almost every team we faced. Whether he was holding Isaiah Whitehead to eight points below his season average, or holding Chase Fischer to only 15 points in the semifinals of the WCC tournament, or keeping Calvin Hermanson to just 9 points in the WCC championship game, he was consistently stellar on the defensive end. His defensive skills earned him the honor of being named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year.

While being known for his defensive efficiency, when the month of March rolled around McClellan showed us his offensive skill. Although he got no recognition awards wise at the WCC tournament, McClellan scored double figures in each game of the tournament. He led the Zags in scoring in two of the three games of the tournament, including a flurry of late game points against St. Mary’s in the championship that sealed the win. He was averaging 18 points a game through March, scoring 26, 15, 20, 9, 22, and 5 points in the games in March.

While his career did not end the was he expected, with him sitting on the bench for half of his final game, a game that the Zags struggled defensively the last few minutes, his career at Gonzaga is definitely one to remember. He was always one of the most animated players out there, whether he was on the court or on the bench. You could see the passion he had for the game pouring out of him during each game. After the loss on senior night to St. Mary's, McClellan took center court to address the fans and motivated everyone for the postseason by saying "It's not over." Those words motivated both the fans and the team to prove a country that was doubting them wrong.

McClellan's two years at Gonzaga flew by and his time playing in a Gonzaga jersey has now come to an end. But he will always be a part of the Zag family, and a player we won't forget any time soon.