Men's Basketball

McLean: The loss of more than just a role model


Hindered by a lingering foot injury, senior forward Mikhail McLean finishes out the season scoring 38 points for the Cougars with a season-high 14 points coming from his performance against the Rice Owls. | File Photo/The Cougar

Mikhail McLean is considered a role model and foundation setter for the future of the Cougars’ basketball program. From graduating early with a bachelor’s in health and being elected team captain to pursuing his master’s in health education, McLean is not only active in the gym and university but also in the community.

Nominated one of only 158 NCAA Division I nominees for the 2015 Allstate National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team, the senior forward aspires to be an asset to the community and to his team — but his time on the Cougar court is almost up.

The Cougar: Your time as an athlete at UH is almost over. How do you feel?

MM: I’m sad that it’s done because I love the University of Houston, but I’m excited to get started on my future. It sounds pretty corny, but I’m excited about whatever I am going to do next.

TC: You played the best game of your career on Jan. 28 against Rice, and two days later you realized that you had re-broken your foot. Describe what that did to you mentally.

MM: I was really confused; I was depressed, but I just figured God had a bigger plan for me because of the way it happened. I was healthy the entire time and coming off the best game of my career and probably would’ve had another good game. Then I got hurt, so maybe God was trying to tell me that it’s time to lace them up and put my shoes away.

TC: During the postgame press conference against Rice, you said that you “decided to be more aggressive for once, and it paid off.” Had you been playing with a sense of caution prior?

MM: No, not at all. My foot hadn’t been hurting at all before that. It was completely fine, but the day after we played Rice my foot began to hurt a little bit from practicing (right here on this baseline) and I was like, “Maybe I should sit out,” but I didn’t. I kept playing, and I just took two dribbles and I planted right here on this baseline.

TC: You were sidelined most of the beginning of the season due to that foot injury, but you’ve remained consistently positive and encouraging from the sideline. How are you able to do that while wishing you were out there?

MM: I just love what I do, I guess. I never wanted to be a coach… I have a lot of coach characteristics that people say I should take advantage of, but I just love the game. I love seeing my guys get better, and I just have a lot of love for what I do.

TC: What are some characteristics you think Coach (Kelvin) Sampson saw in you to appoint you as team captain and speak as highly of you as he does?

MM: Responsibility, accountability and being one of the veteran guys on the team. A lot of the guys look up to me, and me being someone that they would listen to other than coach. I think he trusted me with that, and I embrace it.

TC: Why do you think your fellow teammates respond to your leadership as well as they do?

MM: Maybe my track record. I finished school early, and Coach always brags on me about that. I’ve played in a lot of games, and I have been on the team the longest. I’m probably the oldest on the team, or second-oldest, so I think a lot of that, and just being very mature and seeing that Coach has respect for me that maybe makes them respect me the same way.

TC: How do you think you’ve grown since your freshman year? It has been a long time coming.

MM: It has been a long time – this is my fifth year. My freshman year, I came in as the baby. It was me, Joseph Young and Alandise Harris, and then it was all seniors. That actually made me grow up a lot faster because they didn’t treat us like freshmen; they were like, ‘You either need to get with it or get lost’. From that point on I went from being one of only three freshmen on the team to the veteran on the team in like my sophomore year. So I just grew up really fast, and it was just a great opportunity that I came into.

TC: What is next for Mikhail McLean? Where do you see your future taking you?

MM: I have another semester of grad school after this one, but I want another year with the team because I feel like I didn’t have a lot of time with them. I think I may want to be a graduate assistant next year just to try and help out the team, because next year J-Rod (Stiggers) and L.J. (Rose) are seniors, so that’s like four or five people leaving. I just want to stay one more year and see how much things grow.

TC: So you are mentally ready to end career here?

MM: No, I’m not. (There are) so many big things coming ahead. Next year will be a great year. We had a down year, but we get better every day in practice. The new practice facility will be done; we’re probably going to have the best year in a long time and probably win 20 to 25-plus games. I just want to be a part of that.

TC: What has been the best experience at UH for you?

MM: Just seeing the program build every year. When I came, we didn’t have any Houston-recruited players. The coach before never recruited Houston players, and when I came, I said the one thing I am going to try to do is make this to where Houston players would come in. Since I’ve come, we’ve had several players from Houston come forth, like Danuel House and Chicken Knowles. I just wanted to make this keep all the local kids in Houston, even though I’m from the Bahamas. That has been the best.

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