CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At the risk of selling himself short, University of Akron senior and former Nitro High School basketball star Brett McClanahan is painfully honest when it comes to his potential recruitment to West Virginia University."Everybody wants to go to WVU," said McClanahan, whose Zips (3-2) will pay a visit to WVU Coliseum in a game at 7 tonight. "With that being said, Akron is the place for me. WVU (3-1) has an unbelievable coach in (Bob) Huggins, but I'm not his style of player."I'm good. I'm not trying to downplay myself by any means. Huggins has the one- or two-year guys looking for professional deals. It would be really tough for me to compete in that environment day in and day out."The game at Morgantown (ROOT Sports telecast) is the first of two contests Akron will play in McClanahan's home state this season.The Zips face Marshall at the Henderson Center in a 4 p.m. game on New Year's Day.Marshall - then coached by Ron Jirsa - didn't show much interest in McClanahan, and the overall recruitment in the shooting guard waned during his prep career. In those four years as a starter at Nitro, McClanahan had four coaches, and admits he was something of a prima donna.Still, he broke school records in career points (1,828) and 3-pointers (290).Former WVU Coach John Beilein was on McClanahan's trail after the budding superstar showed off his shooting range during camps at the university early in his varsity career.Beilein went to Michigan and in came Huggins.
"Beilein showed interest in me and I respect him due to the fact he was honest," McClanahan said. "He told me he had coaching offers coming up and he didn't want me to get caught up in all of that. I have the utmost respect for him for that. It would've been a letdown if he led me astray."As for trying to latch on to Huggins at WVU?"I'm not going to put myself in a position to not be successful," McClanahan said.He landed at Akron, recruited by then-assistant Jeff Boals - a former University of Charleston and Marshall assistant coach, now on Thad Matta's staff at Ohio State.After a rough first year, McClanahan has found a home. He serves as one of only two senior returning regulars (Nikola Cvetinovic is the other) on a team that was picked behind only Kent State in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference's preseason poll.
In four seasons, McClanahan has played in the NCAA Tournament twice and the College Basketball Invitational once. Tonight's contest at WVU will be the 99th of his career.
He has played in 11 MAC Tournament games as part of two tournament championship squads. McClanahan has 140 career 3-pointers, starting 44 of the 97 games in which he has played.Four years into his college career, McClanahan's responsibilities have changed somewhat, whereas he serves more of a leadership role to accompany his requirements as a shooter."At this point, I have to keep everybody relatively composed," said McClanahan, whose team had losses to Valparaiso and Duquesne after opening the season with two victories - including a defeat of host Mississippi State in the 2K Sports Classic. "Every year I've been here we've hit some sort of bump in the road. I just have to reinforce the fact that adversity comes regardless."McClanahan admits to being stubborn, and wasn't sure what to expect after a long and arduous freshman year."It's been an adjustment," Akron Coach Keith Dambrot said. "It's been hard for him. Before, it's just been getting ready to play. He's made some sacrifices."He has a chance to play in more tournaments than anybody who has played (at Akron)."
Through three years, McClanahan's only MAC Tournament defeat came his sophomore year in overtime to Ohio in the semifinals.His defense - a weak spot during his high school years - has improved immensely and he admits to enjoying the defensive end more."Coach D has made me a defender first," McClanahan said.He'll graduate in the spring with a degree in business management, hoping to pursue a career in basketball, whether playing or coaching.As for a southern West Virginia high school player looking to play in his third NCAA Tournament?"I want to win a game in the tournament before I talk too much about it," he said. "We've been there twice and now it's time to advance a little further."It's easy to say you want more and more, but I'm thankful for what I've gotten. You don't expect to go to the tournament, you don't expect to win the MAC ... it's a grind day in and day out. It's nothing you can bank on."Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com