Leader Blues

Friday, March 26, 2010

SPORTS >> Giving Red Devil his due

Deshone McClure became Jacksonville’s senior leader this year after playing as a junior on the Red Devils’ state championship team last season. McClure now turns toward the college recruiting process.

By JASON KING

Leader sportswriter

Just because he works hard and excels at basketball doesn’t necessarily mean Deshone McClure takes it seriously — or anything else for that matter.

If not for his basketball prowess, McClure could potentially find work on the stand-up comedy circuit with his quick wit and laid-back demeanor. But his accomplishments on the court stand as evidence to the 6-4 senior guard’s serious side.

With an average 18.3 points a game, McClure has been named The Leader boys player of the year.

McClure’s role with coach Victor Joyner’s Jacksonville Red Devils changed dramatically from his junior season — when Jacksonville won the 6A state championship— to his senior year. McClure was the only junior starter on a team loaded with seniors a year ago, but found himself the elder statesman as the only senior starter this past season.

“I went from being the little brother to the big brother,” McClure said. “At the beginning, it was a little hard. I was use to winning coming in from last year, and then winning championships in summer basketball. But we started out losing. It was a struggle. I had to start listening to coach Joyner.”

McClure received statewide recognition when he hit three winning free throws at the end of the 6A championship game against defending state champion Little Rock Hall in March of 2009. It was Jacksonville’s first state basketball title.

McClure was named most valuable player of that game, and also made a name for himself as a player who could come through in the toughest of clutch situations.

But nerves did not bother McClure that day nearly as much as a piercing stare from his mother, Cynthia.

“I was actually calm, because I looked up at my momma, and she gave me those eyes like, ‘If you don’t make these free throws, we’re going to have it after the game,’ ” McClure said. “I’ve got to make these free throws, or I’ve got to deal with mom after the game.”

Don’t be fooled by the lightheartedness and dismissive demeanor, however. McClure is an intelligent player who turned into a team leader on and off the court.

Joyner said McClure’s work ethic has always been there, but maturity was the variable needed to balance his desire to excel with his fun-loving nature.

“He was an emotional handful that first year,” Joyner said. “We got to a point to where it was either going to be me or him. But we worked some things out. Once his attitude changed, his game accelerated.”

McClure helped the youthful Red Devils to the 6A state quarterfinals this year, and now that his senior season is over McClure has begun the process of visiting colleges. There has been plenty of interest shown by NCAA Division I schools, including Nebraska, Tulsa, Ole Miss and Missouri State.

McClure also has drawn interest from local schools Arkansas State and UALR but so far is leaning toward Ole Miss and coach Andy Kennedy.

“All options are open right now, but I’d probably like to go to Ole Miss,” McClure said. “I like their style, how they get up and down. I met coach Kennedy at a tournament this summer, and I liked his personality. I felt accepted as soon as I met him.”

McClure will make his decision and sign in the coming weeks, and from there, he will take the first step toward shaping his future by coaching the Junior Red Devils, a 12-and-under AAU team.

“Just giving them something to do to keep them out of trouble,” McClure said. “I’m the only coach; I do it by myself.”

Coaching is the line of work McClure wants to enter once his playing days are over. Although football is admittedly his first passion and favorite sport, McClure feels his time under Joyner has given him a unique perspective on basketball.

“Coach Joyner coaches you as if he’s one of the players on the court,” McClure said. “He’s not like one of those coaches who’s always nagging you and telling you what to do. He’s going to tell you right from wrong, but it’s easy to play under him.

“I actually think that from playing under coach Joyner, I could coach against a lot of the teams we played this year.”

McClure’s high-school legacy will undoubtedly include the trio of free throws he shot in the final seconds of the 2009 state final, but McClure has not let success and notoriety affect his personality.

“I try to be laid back, but some people say I’ve never stopped playing,” McClure said. “I guess they’re going to have to deal with it, because I’m just a playful dude.”

SOPHOMORE OF YEAR

Not only did Sylvan Hills’ Archie Goodwin earn all-state and first-team all-Leader honors, his efforts also got him named Leader sophomore of the year.

Goodwin averaged 22 points, five rebounds and two steals a game and is the only sophomore at Sylvan Hills ever named all-state.