Last season, West York’s nine-win boys’ basketball team lost a lot of close games.
Head coach Garrett Bull said his senior-less squad didn’t have a player who consistently stepped up in big moments.
“We couldn’t get over the hump,” said Bull, who is in his third season coaching the Bulldogs. “The juniors were looking around for who would win the game, and there were no seniors.”
That’s no longer the case, though, and that was evident in West York’s showdown against Eastern York on Friday night. With the Bulldogs down 59-58 with 10 seconds remaining, the ball was in Alex McClellan’s hands, surprising no one who saw the 6-foot senior guard pour in 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
McClellan’s layup narrowly missed, but that doesn’t alter the fact that McClelland has developed into a go-to player in clutch situations. He's been a catalyst in West York's turnaround into a Division II contender.
“As a player and one of the leaders on the team, I always want the ball in my hands,” McClellan said. “I know if I miss, my teammates will have my back. It reflects the person and competitor who I am, and it shows the amount of confidence my teammates and coaches have in me.”
Bull said McClellan, who is averaging around 20 points per game, has developed as a leader this season, along with other key players such as Andrew LaManna, Jared Shearer and Gabe Mummert.
“We need him to be a leader and do everything right,” Bull said. “He’s embraced that. His work ethic in practice has really improved from his first year. He’s routinely the hardest-working guy in practice and everybody follows suit.”
Well-rounded player: The most noticeable development in McClellan’s game is that he is no longer just a shooter. He still has the slick 3-point shot, but the senior guard can also dribble drive, find open teammates and be a solid defender. That’s how a 12-point-a-game scorer as a junior develops into one of the top five scorers in the York-Adams League as a senior.
“He’s come a long way since his sophomore year,” Bull said. “As a sophomore, he just wanted to shoot jump shots. Now, he’s become a two-way player. He knows he needs to be our leading scorer most nights, but he tells me he wants to guard the opposing team’s top player. That’s a really cool thing to have when your best player wants to guard the other team’s best scorer.”
McClellan has a reputation in the league as a sharp shooter, said Eastern York point guard Trevor Seitz.
“He’s a deadly shooter,” Seitz said. “If you leave him open, there’s a 95 percent chance it’s going to go in. Early in the game (on Friday), we left him open a couple times and he made a couple of shots in a row. We went to the bench and made an adjustment, and he was still making shots after that. It shows he’s a tremendous shooter and all-around player as well.”
Eastern head coach Justin Seitz said what makes McClellan difficult to defend now is how he’s a well-rounded offensive player.
“The big thing about him is he’s putting the ball on the floor a lot better than I remember in the past,” Justin Seitz said. “He used to shoot, shoot, shoot. Now he can get to the rim. He’s a lot stronger than I thought. He’s a big, strong guard. He’s definitely up there as one of the best players in the county.”
Confidence is key: Bull said McClellan’s body development has increased his confidence getting to the rim and the free-throw line.
“Some kids develop later, and that’s Alex’s case,” Bull said. “His body maturing has given him a lot of confidence. With that added body strength I’ve seen more quickness and confidence.”
McClellan said playing in the Voni Grimes League against older men made him more comfortable with playing a physical style of basketball.
“Coach (Bull) put us in Division I (of the Voni Grimes League) for a reason,” McClellan said. “It made our team tougher because we were playing against older guys. When we got to high school, everything slowed down.”
Multi-sport athlete: Bull, who has several players who competed on successful fall sports teams, said McClellan’s participation on West York’s boys’ soccer team that won a division title and won two games in the District 3 playoffs has also boosted his confidence.
“I think playing multiple sports is a good thing for us as a team,” Bull said. “These guys experienced success for the first time in their fall sport, and I hoped it would transfer to basketball.”
“I had a lot of confidence coming in from soccer season,” McClellan said. “Soccer added confidence. It’s helped me tremendously.”
The Bulldogs (8-2 overall, 3-1 Division II) are tied in the loss column with Dover and Eastern for the top spot in Division II, and Bull and McClellan both know it’s not going to be easy for the Bulldogs to win the crown. While scoring 20 a game is nice, McClellan knows his teammates’ success helps keep him open and able to score.
“Scoring 20 a game is great for me, and if that’s what we have to do to win, we can certainly do that, but we also have other teammates who can put up points as well,” McClellan said. “If they focus on me, then Andrew (LaManna) can score 23 like he did against Suburban and Jared (Shearer) who scored 22 against Susquehannock. It’s not just about me.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.