It was during the 2005-2006 season that the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team was ranked number four in the nation in the final poll heading into the playoffs. However, their outstanding season was cut short when they were upset early in the NCAA Division 2 Regional Playoffs.
However, under head coach Ric Wesley, who won the BCAM College Coach of the Year award for his efforts in the 2005-2006 season, fans are confident that the Grand Valley State Lakers can achieve greatness once again.
The Lakers are already taking a step in the right direction with their 2014 recruiting class which includes a commitment from former Orchard Lake St Mary’s (Mich.) point guard Sam McClendon, who is excited to bring his leadership and dedication to the Lakers basketball program.
“Going into Grand Valley State, I will bring leadership, hard work and dedication.” McClendon said. “I will also bring out the best in my teammates making sure that everyone is getting after it in practice so it will lead to success during the game.”
The former Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Eaglet, certainly made a name for himself during his high school career but after having a productive senior season, where he averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game, McClendon surprised a lot of people when he decided to attend Score Academy, a prep school in North Carolina. Despite the criticism he received for his decision, McClendon says he did what was best for him and he says it turned out to be one of the best decisions of his career.
“I chose to attend prep school because I felt like there was aspects of my game that I could have improved on before I went to the collegiate level.” McClendon said. “A lot of people doubted my decision but it ended up being a great choice and experience for me.”
“I chose to attend Score Academy because I felt it was a better organization for me to be apart of. It helped me to improve a lot on my weaknesses and also allowed me to become a more complete player. I played with players from six different countries which allowed me to become more of a leader and meet people who could possible help me play overseas in Europe after I graduate. I worked a lot with the coaches helping to improve my game and it paid off. Overall, I had a pretty good prep school season and I think it will show at GVSU.”
McClendon chose Grand Valley State over multiple division 1 schools that he was being recruited by. While McClendon says some people may feel he should have chosen to attend a division 1 school, he says a lot of people get caught up with going Division 1 but he didn’t.
“I was being recruited by a number of Division 1 schools such as Southeastern Louisiana, Tennessee State, UNC Wilmington, Coastal Carolina, Radford, NC Central but most of the schools weren’t as well-rounded as GVSU as far as success in athletics and academics.” McClendon replied. “A lot of people get caught up with the whole division one thing, but you have to go to a school that fits you, your needs, and your personality.”
According to McClendon, Grand Valley State fits him in every way possible.
“I chose to commit to GVSU, because they showed me the most love throughout my recruiting process and because I like the academic and athletic tradition that they have there.” McClendon said. “They’ve actually been recruiting since my senior year at St. Mary’s. Throughout my recruitment, coach Bauer was always calling and checking on me and then when I went on a visit there, I fell in love with the place. During my visit, they made me feel very comfortable. They have top-notch facilities and a nice campus and I also like how diverse the school is which is something I experienced going to St. Mary’s and playing at a prep school.”
“Overall, I feel that GVSU will be a good fit both academically and athletically. I feel really good and confident about my decision. I know this is the best opportunity for me and I will take full advantage of it. ”
If you haven’t already figured it out, this is obviously a great addition to the Lakers already talented roster. The 6-foot-1 point guard, has very impressive athleticism and has shown on a consistent basis that he has the great ability to get to the rim and finish through contact. He is known for his great court vision and he definitively knows how to get his teammates involved. However, his most underrated skill set is his great defense, all through high school, McClendon was considered to be a strong defender and I have feeling that he is going to be strong defender at Grand Valley State as well.
According to McClendon, the Lakers plan to take full advantage of his skill set very early.
“There is good chance that I could earn immediate playing time.” McClendon replied. “They need a guard who can come in and make an immediate impact, especially with them losing their starting point guard last year. So my goal is to make sure I’m ready when my name is called.”
It seems earning early playing time isn’t the only goal McClendon has for himself. Going into his freshman year at Grand Valley State, McClendon says he has high expectations for himself on and off the court.
“My athletic goals is just for me to come in and immediately have an impact.” McClendon said. “I’m looking to be a leader even as a freshman and do whatever the coaches need me to do to win. I also want to help bring a GLIAC and National Championship to GVSU. Academically I plan to pick up from where I left in high school. I haven’t completely decided yet but I’m leaning towards majoring in Computer Engineering because growing up I’ve always enjoyed and been interested in repairing computers. Throughout high school, I had a lot of success in the classroom with obtaining a 3.4 grade point average and I plan to continue that at GVSU. I plan to be a very successful student athlete.”
Overall, I would say the Grand Valley State Lakers have themselves great point guard but more importantly, they have a great young man who will do great things on and off the court. Be sure to lookout for him during the 2014-15 season.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit