Jack McClinton really wanted to play in the NBA this season. He hoped the days of proving himself were over and done with. But as it turns out, he still has more convincing to do.
Wednesday night at Hurricanes Hoopfest, the two-time All-ACC First Team guard seemed as though he was soaking in the last few minutes he could at UM. He sat courtside, chumming up to teammates and fans. Turns out he was. The 6-1 guard who took UM to the second round of the NCAA tournament two years ago is scheduled to be on a flight to Istanbul Thursday afternoon where he'll begin his first professional season as a member of Aliaga Petkim.
McClinton, drafted by the Spurs in the second round last June, was released by the Minnesota Timberwolves last week. And he was going to sit at home feeling sorry for himself.
"I kept waiting and waiting to see if teams were interested. But it was time to go man," said McClinton, who hired a new agent, the same used by former Canes James Jones and John Salmons.
"I decided I can’t keep waiting in my bed for a team to call. I didn’t want to go to the D-League. So, I’m going to go across the water for seven months, come back next year better than ever. It’s a humbling experience. It’s not what I wanted to do. But everybody has to take a different road and this is the road I have to take."
McClinton hopes the road will eventually lead back to the Spurs, who he said encouraged him to play overseas where they would keep an eye on him. The way he sees it, his trip overseas will feel a lot like a road he's traveled before.
"That's one thing that always keeps me motivated. I've never given up," McClinton said. "I went to Sienna, transferred to Miami. I guess I can look at Turkey as Sienna and Miami being the NBA. I'm starting over."
MORE HOOPS NOTES/OBSERVATIONS...
> I've already developed a serious man crush on Malcolm Grant. Well, a reporter's crush. The guy is a quote machine and not afraid to have a little fun with his teammates. Among my favorite Malcolmisms from Wednesday:
- In regards to freshman guard Antoine Allen: "I call him G-Mac because he plays like T-Mac. He’s real smooth, understands the game."
- On sophomore Dequan Jones: "His jump shot is coming a long way. This guy couldn't throw it in the ocean. He's been working on it and he's good."
> Guard James Dews is going to have to wear some sort of protective vest this season to help keep his injured left shoulder healthy. Dews said he collided with freshman Durand Scott during open gym last week battling for a loose ball. "I'll get used to it," Dews said.
> UM might be more athletic and faster paced this year, but the offense is going to be centered around senior Dwayne Collins in the post -- at least in the early going. "If Dwayne is able to be consistent, he’s a first team all-league player," UM coach Frank Haith said. "I think he’s as good as there is the league when he’s on his game night in, night out. We’re coming to him. He knows the offense is centered around him. He’s going to get a lot of touches. He just has to work to get open. Sometimes he’s methodical with his moves. I think sometimes he does that because he’s trying to get his feet under him. We need him to work hard to get those two feet in the paint."
> Haith loves what Malcolm Grant brings in terms of leadership at the point guard position. But consider him just as excited about freshman Durand Scott. "There's no question [Malcolm] will be the best leader we've had in terms of guys will take command. I can say to him Malcolm, don't let that happen. And he will," Haith said. "But let me tell you guys something -- Durand Scott is equally a good leader even as a freshman. He has command, a great presence in what he's doing. I think he'll play the one. He's good. He can handle the ball. He has great vision. The white team won [Wednesday's scrimmage] and it was all because [Scott] had all the freshmen on the team. He doesn't make many mistakes and you can't take it from him. He's good."
> Freshman forward Donnavan Kirk (6-9, 220) might be the most talented forward UM has. But of the four freshmen, he's the most behind. "Of all the guys, him getting adjusted to what we're doing, he gets lost some times," Haith said. "But his talent is level is noticeable. He's long, athletic, he's quick. His nickname is Pogo. He's bouncy and I like that about him. He runs the court very well. We want to run more, so he'll have his moments. But there's no doubt the other perimeter guys will play a lot."