Record-breaking rookie

Record-breaking rookie
( McClain, a freshman, led the Mon-Dak Conference in rebounding, steals and field goal percentage.

Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer

McClain wows in freshman NJCAA basketball season

BISMARK, North Dakota — Often times when athletes go up a level in competition, there is a learning curve or a slow start that accompanies that progression.

Coaches that find themselves playing these new players use phrases like “freshman mistakes” and “getting used to the speed of the game” frequently to describe their play early on.

If you are one of these players, you may not want to be held to the standard set by Muscogee (Creek) citizen and Red Lake, Minnesota native Rob McClain.

McClain, a six-foot-five-inch freshman forward for the United Tribes Technical College Thunderbirds basketball team just finished off quite the debut campaign.

Not only did McClain’s play resonate with his team, leading the Thunderbirds to their first 20-win season since 2002, he also he made his mark in the seven team Mon-Dak Athletic Conference.

McClain was named first-team All-Conference after leading the MDAC in rebounding (10.7 per game), steals (3.5 per game) and field goal percentage (65.8 percent). His 18.2 scoring average was good for sixth in the conference and he broke a school record pulling down 23 rebounds in a 120-99 win over Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College.

McClain was also named to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s All-Region 13 Team.

“Rob’s been a huge asset to the team,” UTTC head coach Pete Conway said. “Not just on the basketball court, but in the classroom and the community as well.”

McClain worked just as hard on his studies as he did his jump shots as he was also named first team Academic All-Conference.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the year that I did,” McClain said. “Not just for the basketball but the academic work as well, which is very important to me.”

McClain, whose Muscogee (Creek) heritage comes from his grandfather Jim Lasley, is also happy to be at UTTC. His original plans were to play NCAA Division III basketball at the University of St. Thomas, but when he realized that financially it was not going to work out there for him and his family, he made a call to Conway and the rest is history.

“I talked to the coach and said ‘is there a possibility of me attending United Tribes?’ ” McClain said. “About a week later I was ready to go. It was a very last minute decision, but one that turned out very well for me. I’m happy.”

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