McDermott has Clark smiling
Ames, Ia. — On paper, they sure seem like an odd couple, don't they? The country kid from Cascade and the high-flying forward from Queens. The coach with the intricate, deliberate half-court offense and the kid who plays above the rim.
"He's great," Rahshon Clark said Tuesday when asked what he liked about Greg McDermott. "Loves the game of basketball just like I do. Who wouldn't want to play for a guy who loves the game of basketball and wants his guys to succeed?"
And with that, Clark smiled that famous smile. You know, the one where he doesn't have to say a word and you know exactly what he's thinking.
Here's what he was thinking at Iowa State men's basketball media day: It's my time, baby.
No Curtis. No Will. Between April and October, McDermott lost six players, and almost 58 percent of last year's scoring.
As for things you know for certain about these Cyclones, there's Clark and ... um, Clark. The 6-foot-6 forward out of New York City is the closest thing to a bellcow on McDermott's first roster in Ames, having notched 13.1 points and a team-best 5.5 rebounds last year.
"Rahshon, he's taking a lot of pressure from this, you know?" senior forward Jessan Gray said. "Guys look at him like, 'Man, you're the go-to guy.' "
And when they look, the kid doesn't exactly shy away.
"I can be a No. 1 scorer," said Clark, who averaged 12 points and 6.3 rebounds per game during Big 12 play a year ago. "I'm a competitive player. I'm a competitive guy. I'm willing to take on any challenge put in front of me."
The first is to evolve from a complementary player - a supporting actor to departed leading men Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock - to an elite one.
McDermott explained Tuesday that he wants Clark's long-range shooting - he's hit on 38 percent of his 3-point attempts the past two years - to become more of a primary weapon. He wants him to be "one of the best defenders in the Big 12." He wants him to be a more polished ball-handler.
In other words, it sounds as if he wants him to be another Ben Jacobson.
"There's no doubt," said assistant coach Jeff Rutter, who, along with McDermott, coached Jacobson the previous four years at Northern Iowa. "I can see Mac already thinking of how to get Rahshon free in late-game situations.
"His versatility is huge. He's got good vision. He's had a couple practices - again, there's a learning curve - where you just look and go, 'Oh my. This guy can really do a lot of things.'"
But can he do them within the system, you wonder? Wayne Morgan's Cyclones looked to run at any opportunity. McDermott's Cyclones, based on his track record in Cedar Falls, will run only when the moment is absolutely right.
For Clark, who's become a fan favorite at Hilton Coliseum with his repertoire of dunks, it's going to feel like downshifting from acid jazz to a Debussy.
"Being a high-flyer, that doesn't matter to me if you don't win games," Clark said. "I'm not looking for a lot of high-flying stuff, really, that much this year. I just want to win ballgames."
"It's in the playbook," he said. "It's there. Don't get me wrong. Expect the high-flyer. But expect us to win a lot of ballgames as well."
Will the Cyclones win a lot of ballgames? Yes. Eventually. This is a 12-step rebuilding process, and we're barely to part two.
"We've got," said McDermott, who knows what a good team looks like, "some work to do."
Translation: Be patient. This is going to take time. And bodies.
"There was no reason put in front of me to leave (the program)," Clark said. "What (McDermott) wants to bring ... is what I want to bring to the program as well. Why not have two people come together and go for the same goal?
"He just spoke to me and was honest with me. He said, 'This is going to be your team this year.' "
A reporter asked Clark if he was ready for that kind of burden. He smiled again, wider this time. That said it all.
Re: McDermott has Clark smiling
I just can't wait to watch the Clark led Cyclones this winter!