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McClinton: 'It is a blessing' to be honored

Jack McClinton has a feeling something special is going to happen tonight when the Hurricanes host sixth-ranked Duke at BankUnited Center.

"For some reason, I think we’re going to win today," the two-time All-ACC selection said Wednesday afternoon, two years after he was at the heart of UM's first win over the Blue Devils in 45 years. "Duke’s a great program, but when you play against a better team you always get up for it. As much as people don’t think we can do it, I believe we’re going to pull it off today."

Jack McClinton The Hurricanes (17-8, 3-8 ACC) will need a special effort to knock off the Blue Devils (21-4, 9-2 ACC). But win or lose, it will still be a special night for McClinton and die-hard Hurricanes basketball fans. At halftime, McClinton's No. 33 will be raised to the basketball arena's rafters along with Don Curnutt (1967-70) and the late Dick Hickox (1958-61). Only two other UM players have received that honor before Wednesday: Rick Barry (1962-65) and Tim James (1995-99).

McClinton, just one year removed from wearing the orange and green, said it is an honor just to be honored.

"It definitely means a lot, especially to me and my family," said McClinton, who led UM in scoring for three seasons (2006-2009) and left the program as its most prolific three-point shooter."Having my name with these great players at the University of Miami, it’s just a great blessing to be here and a blessing having it happen so fast. I met Mr. Barry yesterday. He’s a legend man. It’s like talking to Jordan. It was just a great honor to meet him."

Barry, named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, would love to see McClinton follow his footsteps as a pro. But Jack has work to do. A second round pick by the San Antonio Spurs last June, McClinton was unable to land a roster spot with the Spurs or Minnesota Timberwolves and signed with the Aliaga Petkim in the Turkish Basketball League, where he's been since the season began Oct. 17.

Little by little, McClinton says, he's adapted to the European game, where zone defenses "stress getting your fundamentals down."

"Things are going well," said McClinton, who ranks 12th in scoring (16.28 ppg) and is averaging 3.3 assists while shooting 32.3 percent from three-point range for an 8-11 team. "I had nine assists last game. I feel like I'm really transferring my game over there. I’m really becoming a total player. I’ve learned how to read the defense more, be a better point guard. It’s definitely helped my game for sure."

Living overseas, McClinton says, has its perks. Aliaga, located on the west coast of Turkey, is a small town of about 44,000 people -- most who love basketball and have grown to love McClinton. The tough part? No fast food.

"There's been a lot of different things that have happened that I haven't gotten used to yet," McClinton said. "The fans are great, but they're tough. They'll throw stuff on the court if they're not happy. But other than that, the biggest thing I miss is being able to go to McDonald's whenever I want."

McClinton, who lives in a small apartment, said he keeps up with his former team when he isn't playing or practicing and watches Canes games online. Many times during games, he'll broadcast his thoughts on Twitter. Of his former teammates, whom he keeps in contact through email and AOL instant message, McClinton said he communicates most often with point guard Malcolm Grant.

"They're a young team man," McClinton said. "Winning on the road in the ACC isn't easy. But if you look at their home record, it's real good. I tell Malcolm all the time he’s doing a great job."

> The ACC released its All-Academic football team Wednesday and the Canes had two players among the 42 selected: tight end Jimmy Graham and offensive lineman Matt Pipho. To be eligible for consideration, a player must have earned a 3.00 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career. All 12 ACC schools were represented by at least one selection on the team. The ACC has selected an ACC All-Academic Football team every year since 1954.

> It was Baseball Media Day on Wednesday. I'll have a few interviews and notes to post in the coming days.

> Spring football practice begins next week. All regular practices are closed to the public and the media only get to see the first 15 minutes of stretching. Here is the complete practice schedule (all practice times are at 3 p.m. unless noted):

- Tuesday, Feb. 23
- Wednesday, Feb. 24
- Friday, Feb. 26
- Saturday, Feb. 27 (10 a.m.)
- Tuesday, March 2
- Wednesday, March 3
- Friday, March 5
- Saturday, March 6 (10 a.m.)
- Tuesday, March 9
- Wednesday, March 10
- Thursday, March 11 (scrimmage)
- Tuesday, March 23
- Wednesday, March 24
- Friday, March 26
- Saturday, March 27 (Spring Game - TBA)