Monday, April 14, 2014

Bronx-Bred Guard McLean Receiving Heavy NCAA Interest

Giovanni McLean's prodigious handle and ability to pilot a team has allowed his stock to balloon the past three months.

The 6-foot-1 guard is suddenly a sought after product on the recruiting agora.

A sophomore at Westchester Community College in Valhalla N.Y., Mclean averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 assists (third in the NJCAA) and five boards as the Vikes (28-4) garnered their first JUCO national tournament berth since 1996.

 McLean has steady interest from Missouri, Texas State, Eastern Illinois, St. John's, Fordham, Oklahoma, Missouri,  Memphis, Virginia Tech, Quinnipiac and Duquesne.

Fordham and St. John's have been making a strong late pitch, according to WCC head coach Tyrone Mushatt.

Mizzou and Eastern Illnois, however, appear to have the upper hand in the sweepstakes.

"Right now, I like Mizzou a lot," said McLean, who spent a lot of time at Missouri's campus while  playing for Moberly Area Community in Moberly, Mo.

"I like Texas State a lot. Eastern Illinois, I have familiarity with them because (head coach) Jay Spoonhour coached me my first year at Moberly. He's a great coach, his style is a lot of ball screens and his defensive philosophy I love. He's all about denying the wing, taking charges. Nobody has really motivated me to play defense like him. Of course, I can't rule Oklahoma out just because of who they are."

When will McLean arrive at a decision?

"I'm going to have 2-3 more visits at the most, then I'll decide," he explained.

 "I'm taking it by ear right now."

McLean began the season as a veritable jack of all trades, leaving his fingerprints in every statistical category in the book.

He was a scorer, a distributor, and a presence on the boards, spurring the transition game instantly after snaring a defensive rebound.

McLean, who discovered basketball following a soccer-obsessed childhood, averaged 25.2 points during a four-game stretch.

When shooting guard Luis Montero suddenly became eligible, during the 16th game of the season, McLean quickly adapted. He hunted for his shot less and created more.

A product of PSAL alternative school Bronx Regional, McLean has had his share of academic issues. He's on target to graduate this spring, however, and plans on immediately enrolling in summer courses at whichever campus he lands.

He swiftly established an effective inside-outside game with 6-foot-8 forward Keith Thomas, another burgeoning high-major prospect. His ball handling and patented spin moves, during which his dribble is maintained and the rock is protected, lured in defenses.

Defenders who overplayed him were constantly in chase. He capitalized by feeding the interior and kicking out passes to Montero. Montero, who has earned significant interest, with Alabama, Penn State, Oklahoma State and LSU in persistent pursuit, averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 boards.

"The ball is still bouncing while he's spinning," Mushatt said. "You don't see the kind of moves he pulls too often anymore."

 Mushatt continued, "During the first half of the season, Gio was kind of doing everything for us, he was leading us in scoring and assists. He lessened his role kind of by mistake.

When you add another scorer to the lineup, it changes the makeup of the team. A lot of guys would have folded. Gio didn't pout. He adjusted. He realized, we didn't need him to score 25 anymore. He's still going to have his games, like he did, where he goes off."

That much was on display during McLean's 34-point eruption, on 13-for-20 shooting, during the Vikes' 101-99 double overtime loss to Wallace State in the national tournament.

Prior to that, McLean dropped 21 points during an 82-70 win over Baltimore City Community College.

Leading the perimeter assault, McLean drilled three 3-pointers in each of the Vikes final four games. On the season, he had five games of four 3-pointers or more. He shot 46.6 percent from the floor.

The Bronx-bred guard, a fixture at NYC basketball proving grounds such as Dyckman and Rucker Park, said the team's chemistry was paramount to the historic 2013-2014 campaign.

"I think learning how to play with each other was key," McLean said.

"Sometimes you are going to have arguments and bumps and bruises down the road. We kept that to a bare minimum. The chemistry allowed us to play the way we did. When it was game time, everyone was focused and together."

McLean renewed his basketball jones a few summers ago, authoring numerous scalding performances on the streetball circuit.

Known as "Batteries Not Included" on the blacktop scene, McLean has always been the younger kid up against the established wolves.

He's been entrenched in marquee battles with guards such as Corey Fisher and former NCAA scoring cyborg Keydren Clark.

Mushatt said McLean's leadership qualities are what makes the 23-year-old such an appealing prospect.

"He's just a kid that doesn't give up," he explained.

"I've seen games where he struggled, shooting-wise, because they're running double teams on him. He just hung in there. He'll tell me 'Coach, we're not going to lose this game.' He puts the team on his shoulders, and you don't see that a lot."