McClellan feeds off Kabongo’s style of play

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Sheldon McClellan takes the ball strong to the hoop in Texas’ 22-point overtime comeback against Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

In five games, Myck Kabongo has asserted himself as the clear leader for the Longhorns. Never mind him not playing in the team’s first 23 games. He’s put in the time to become a better, smarter player than he was a year ago. 

Not only is Kabongo improving as his sophomore season comes to its denouement, but he has made nearly every one of his teammates better as well.

“There are not many guards in the country that can do what he does off the dribble or be able to create shots for other people,” Sheldon McClellan said.

McClellan still leads Texas in scoring at 13.8 points per game and he has taken on a new role as Kabongo has transitioned back to the team. McClellan, also a sophomore, is a streaky scorer and can let frustration get the best of him when his shots aren’t falling. With Kabongo’s help, McClellan has a chance to become a more complete player rather than simply a scorer who prefers not to play much defense.

Since Kabongo spreads opponents out, McClellan is able to find more space to create or drive to the basket. McClellan was able to get to the free throw line 13 times the last time out for Texas, hitting every one of those attempts for the seventh time in a game this year. 

When McClellan gets to the line, Texas is a much better team because it means he’s actively pursuing points rather than just waiting for a pass on the wing so he can fire up a contested jumper. McClellan remains one of the Longhorns’ most reliable spot-up shooters despite his shooting percentage this year, but he can no longer afford to be one-dimensional when the team needs points.

When Texas needed points against Oklahoma, McClellan was right behind Kabongo to lead a furious comeback against the Sooners. There has just been one instance this season, Jan. 9 against West Virginia, when McClellan has played more than 20 minutes and failed to score more than 10 points. Even with McClellan coming off the bench like he has done recently, the Longhorns still need him to play and score like a starter.

After splitting the season series with the Sooners thanks to a remarkable overtime win, Texas will take on Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., in its penultimate Big 12 road game. The Longhorns’ lone road win came against TCU in Fort Worth, and they sport a 1-6 road record in conference play. Gallagher-IBA Arena is a historically tough place to play, and this game won’t be any different.

The Cowboys are led by a young cohort of rangy players who love to score with style. In their first meeting in Austin on Feb. 9, freshman Marcus Smart dropped 23 points and nabbed five steals as the Cowboys secured a 13-point win over the Longhorns.

McClellan scored four points in that game against the Cowboys, but with the help of Kabongo he should get more opportunities to show why he is the team’s leading scorer and perhaps even lead Texas to its first two-game conference winning streak since February of last year.

Published on March 1, 2013 as "Kabongo keys border battle".