Miami's star guard, Jack McClinton, brings a true rags-to-riches story to Rupp Arena on Saturday.
As a high school player in Baltimore, he attracted no significant recruiting attention. So he went to a prep school in Connecticut, where he again played well but failed to entice a scholarship offer from a major Division I school.
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So McClinton went to Siena, where he played well enough in one season to be the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week six times. That convinced him he could play against top-notch competition.
The story, alas apocryphal, had Miami not getting interested until McClinton's father sent a video. The father did send a tape, but Miami Coach Frank Haith said he knew about McClinton.
"Jack didn't miss on the tape," Haith said with a chuckle during a telephone interview on Friday. "I think he was 50-for-50."
McClinton, now a senior, hasn't been that good, but he's been close enough: a career 43.5-percent three-point shooter, the first Miami player to make the all-Atlantic Coast Conference first team and a two-time member of the all-ACC Academic team.
"He's a self-made player," Haith said. "He was not a guy who came with accolades and highly recruited. He's worked to be the player he is."
As a 6-foot-1 shooting guard, McClinton was considered too short to be effective at the major conference level. He's scored 1,176 points for Miami and needs 17 more against UK to move into the Hurricanes' career top 20.
"Jack didn't have opportunities, but he never stopped playing," Haith said. "He never stopped believing. That's why I think the kid is so competitive. He's driven because of that.
"You know, there's no substitute for a kid like that, a kid that's very grateful. He's going to give you everything he's got. He wants to be coached."
McClinton flirted with missing the Kentucky game. After making his first four three-point shots against Ohio State on Tuesday, he was ejected because of a flagrant foul. Ohio State rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to win 73-68.
The incident was out of character: He'd never before had a flagrant foul or technical foul.
On Thursday, the ACC ruled that McClinton would not have to sit out any games as punishment for this first offense.
When asked what McClinton meant to Miami, Haith laughed.
"He's not only our best player on the court but our emotional leader," the coach said. "Losing him is not necessarily losing his point production. He does so much more for our team. People have to be aware of where he's at all the time, and it opens up things for other guys."
Two games too much?
UK forward Perry Stevenson saw no need for concern with a schedule that calls for two games within 48 hours this weekend.
Besides playing Miami on Saturday, the Cats face winless Mississippi Valley State on Sunday in Rupp Arena.
Stevenson noted the even busier slate of games in AAU basketball.
Four or five 32-minute AAU games over two days show that players can deal with 40 minutes of play in the same time frame, he said.
Then Stevenson corrected himself. "Sorry, 80 minutes in 48 hours," he said. "I'm not much with math.
"I think we're tough enough to handle it."
Tickets are available for the Mississippi Valley State game. Orders can be made at UK's ticket office (1-800-928-2287) or Rupp Arena (859-233-3535) or on the Internet (UKathletics.com or Ticketmaster.com). ... Jon Sciambi and former UK assistant Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPN.