Before June 29, analysts and fans alike were gushing about all the incoming talent added to the Gonzaga roster. Not only do the Bulldogs bring in a loaded freshmen class, consisting of blue-chip point guard Josh Perkins, Portland high school basketball standout Silas Melson, combo-guard Bryan Alberts and the son of NBA legend Arvydas Sabonis, Domas. On top of that, the Zags are adding Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer and former USC leading scorer Byron Wesley and high impact players that should slide right into the starting lineup.
An already loaded Gonzaga roster added another quality piece in Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan. Despite having a bit of a checkered past, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are giving McClellan a second chance to resurrect his playing career.
Gonzaga is the third school for McClellan; he started at Tulsa, transferred to Missouri and now finds himself at Gonzaga.
While at Tulsa
As a freshmen, McClellan started more than half (16 out of 30) of the Golden Hurricane’s games and put up decent numbers. His 8.5 points per game were fourth on the team, while also averaging 2.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
While McClellan was regarded as a promising scorer, he turned the ball over way too much. His 93 total turnovers in the 2011-2012 seasons led the Hurricanes, despite ranking fifth on the team in minutes played (23.1 per game).
McClellan ended up leaving the program after head coach Doug Wojcik was fired, along with the team’s leading scorer, Jordan Clarkson.
While at Vanderbilt
After sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer protocol, McClellan suited up for the Commodores in 2013-2014. He started all 12 of the games he played at Vanderbilt, leading the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game. On top of that, McClellan averaged 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
His development into a high volume scorer was on display for most of the season, especially during a non-conference tilt against the Butler Bulldogs, where McClellan dropped 29 points on the Bulldogs. However, turnovers (3.5 turnovers per game) and inefficiency from 3-point range (18.2 3P%) raised concerns about McClellan as a guard.
McClellan’s season ended prematurely when he was dismissed from the Vanderbilt team after a violation of university policy and when an arrest in September came attention to the school. During his time away from basketball, McClellan apologized via twitter to the fan base (read about it here) and worked on learning and moving on from his mistakes.
Impact at Gonzaga
While many Gonzaga fans are scratching their heads at this addition, this is a low risk-high reward signing.
If McClellan does not pan out, Gonzaga has plenty of options in the backcourt to turn to. If McClellan proves to be a viable asset, it bolsters the depth on the Zags roster even more.
Some are concerned that McClellan’s skill set will not translate well to Mark Few’s system, and point to turnovers and 3-point shooting as to reasons why.
In terms of 3-point shooting, many will point to McClellan’s poor percentage at Vanderbilt (18.2 percent) and claim that without an outside shot, McClellan cannot thrive in GU’s system. However, that was a relatively small sample size (33 attempts) and McClellan shot much better as a freshman (38.3 percent). His numbers at Vanderbilt may not be an indicator of his overall ability to knock down the 3-ball.
As for the turnovers, McClellan said that is the portion of the game he is working on the most.
Eligibility wise, there are three separate options for McClellan:
Option A: McClellan completes three courses over the summer, receives a waiver and is eligible immediately.
Option B: McClellan completes three course over the summer and is eligible after the fall semester.
Option C: Something goes awry in the academic process, McClellan sits out the whole season and is eligible in 2015-2016.
McClellan would have 2, 1.5 or 1 years available respectively in options A, B and C. The most plausible option would be B, but option A is not out of reach either. Option C appears to be pretty unlikely at this stage.
When McClellan becomes eligible, he will likely have to scratch and claw for every minute, competing with seniors Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., freshmen Melson, Perkins and Alberts, Wesley and Kyle Dranginis. The 6-foot-4 combo guard will likely make the biggest impact in 2015-2016, when Pangos and Bell have departed and more playing time opens up. He should provide a nice senior presence to Perkins at the point guard position, which will likely be one of his main roles throughout his Gonzaga career.