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By Gabriel Stovall
Deontae McClanahan remembers well the night he allowed his mind to drift toward what seemed like his inevitable, but unwanted basketball fate.
It was a fate that, since the age of four when he started hooping, he never thought he’d have to face.
Since childhood, McClanahan has had dreams of playing college basketball. From Fort Pope, LA where he was born into a military family, to Germany, South Carolina and then finally Georgia where his family settled early in his life, the narrative he’d written up in his mind never changed.
Learn the game as a youngster, grab the attention of college recruiters and scouts in high school, then sign on that dotted line.
That narrative seemed more like fiction rather than fact, however, just before his senior season at Woodland began. That’s because the long, lean 6-foot-3 combo guard had zero college offers at a time when many of his peers were either verbally committing or at least starting to receive legitimate interest.
But all McClanahan had to show for his first three years of high school basketball, at this point, was insomnia.
“It really got to a point where I stayed up all night before the first game of the season and thought about it,” McClanahan said. “I knew people my age or younger were getting offers. But I was a senior with no offers. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I still wanted to play basketball.”
It wasn’t that he was going to just completely stop.
“I ain’t never been a quitter,” he said. “Never. Everything I’ve done, I never quit. Quitting wasn’t the question, but it was more like I didn’t know if I would be able to play after high school.”
Fast forward to today, and while Woodland’s season and McClanahan’s high school career ended with a 73-70 loss to Starr’s Mill in the Region 4-AAAAA tournament, the Wolfpack’s leading scorer is no longer wondering if he’ll play after high school. Now it’s just all about where.
“I’m really blessed, to be honest,” he said. “To go from no colleges to about five or six colleges calling your phone at one time. Yeah, I’m definitely blessed.”
McClanahan got his first — and for now, his only — offer from Wingate, a Div. II school from North Carolina. But he’s also been hearing from Clark University in Worcester, MA and Southern Wesleyan University, a school in Central, SC, along with several others.
He’s a fluid guard that can score from the perimeter or by slashing to the basket. He averaged 16.2 points per game this season, along with 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and two steals. He said he benefited greatly from first-year coach Bull Martin’s tutelage.
“When I first moved to Georgia, I used to go to Bull Martin’s camps when I was like six or seven years old,” he said. “So as soon as I found out he’d be our coach this year, it made everything 10 times better from the start. Just me hearing that news, I guess I felt more comfortable and felt like I would be able to play more like myself.”
Between Martin’s connections and his teammates urging McClanahan to go to various showcases, like the Southeast Basketball Academy (SEBA) showcase, that was held at Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University last September, McClanahan started getting the attention he’d hoped for.
Because of that, he’s now got a reason to circle Wednesday April 15 on his calendar.
“That’s signing day,” he said. He still doesn’t know where he’ll sign. He’s hoping that the uptick in attention will result in a few more offers.
Until then, he’ll work hard in the weight room to get stronger since he admits, “I’m a little skinny.” And he’ll continue to work just as diligently in the classroom. McClanahan has a 3.4 grade point average and plans to major in Exercise Science wherever he goes.
Oh, and he’ll also have his eyes on the Jonesboro Cardinals in Thursday’s Class AAAA championship game.
“I just like how those boys work,” he said.
He’s also glad his work on the basketball court hasn’t been in vain.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “Words can’t even describe it, to be honest. Just to know that over the past decade of me playing basketball isn’t going to go to waste. I’ll be be playing college basketball somewhere. It’s a great feeling.”
Check out McClanahan’s highlight video here: