Commentary: McClinton is one of nation’s elite players

I don’t care about Davidson junior guard Stephen Curry. I don’t care about Kentucky junior guard Jodie Meeks. I don’t even care for Wake Forest sophomore guard Jeff Teague. All I care about is Miami senior guard Jack McClinton.

McClinton is one of the elite college basketball players in the nation, hands down. Before Wednesday night’s game against Florida State, he was averaging 20.3 points per game and led the ACC, arguably the premier basketball conference in the nation, in every 3-point category.

The Baltimore, Md., native should be nominated for the John R. Wooden award in March, which honors the most “Outstanding College Basketball Player in the United States” based on his performance in the regular season, conference tournament and postseason, as well as his character.

Last season, North Carolina senior forward Tyler Hansbrough took home the award.

If No. 33 is not even a candidate, clearly the 1,000 voters – composed of sports media members and college basketball experts from across the nation – don’t respect him.

“I think if he played at a higher profile place, he would be a first or second team All-American,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said before the season started.

McClinton is drastically underrated.

When you YouTube his name, only one highlight pops up, and it’s from a 19-point loss to Clemson. However, you can find every shot Curry nails and every rebound Hansbrough grabs.

You don’t come across his first 30-point game against Northwestern his sophomore year. You don’t see how he guided the Hurricanes in last season’s big games against Mississippi State, the Tigers, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia, St. Mary and Texas. So far this year, he has gone to work on Connecticut, Ohio State, Kentucky, Maryland, Wake Forest, the Blue Devils, Seminoles and Tar Heels.

You don’t see any of it.

McCinton’s heart has guided him so far in life and that’s why he had it tattooed during the offseason.

After McClinton scored 32 points in a win over the Demon Deacons, head coach Dino Gaudio called it “one of the best performances [he’s seen] in the eight years [he has] been in the ACC.”

After McClinton scored Miami’s last 18 points, finishing with 34 points including the game-tying deep 3-pointer to send the Hurricanes into overtime, he earned even more respect from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“It’s not luck. The kid is just a great player, a great shooter,” he said. “McClinton is just spectacular.”

Coach K even told McClinton after the game that he would do anything he could to help the guard get into the NBA.

“He is a gifted guy,” Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He can make the tough shots and if you give him space, he will make it. He has a unique skill because of his mentality.”

J-Mac will eventually become Miami’s all-time 3-point shooter and will hold the record for the best career 3-point shooting percentage in the ACC.

“In 55 years in the history of the ACC, he is the leading man in history for 3-pointers,” said UNC head coach Roy Williams Sunday night, when McClinton scored a season-high 35 points in a 69-65 loss. “That tells you something. That’s how good he is.”