Bill Hass on the ACC: David McClure, Derwin Kitchen Come Up Big in Complementary Roles
March 14, 2009
By Bill Hass
ATLANTA – Star players can’t always win games by themselves.
Every good team needs complementary players who can give the stars their opportunity to shine, or step into the breach when the stars have an off game.
In the semifinals of the ACC Tournament Saturday at the Georgia Dome, David McClure of Duke and Derwin Kitchen of Florida State did exactly what was needed to help lift their teams into the championship game. Their stats might not have leaped off the box score, but their contributions were crucial.
McClure, a fifth-year senior who comes off the bench, played 15 of his 23 minutes in the second half and made several key plays to help the Blue Devils hold off Maryland 67-61. With Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson combining to make just six of 26 shots, McClure came up with six points, three rebounds, a timely blocked shot and an even timelier steal.
“David, in the second half, made three huge plays that you could see lifted our team,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
An energetic 6-6 forward, McClure’s line on the stat sheet rarely stands out, although he pulled down 13 rebounds against Wake Forest and 12 against Miami earlier this season. Instead, his contributions are usually the things teammates and coaches appreciate.
“He’s so valuable to us,” said teammate Greg Paulus. “Sometimes what he does doesn’t show up (in the stats). (Today) he did a real good job finishing plays, rebounding the ball, blocking shots, tipping balls to guys, maybe coming over and contesting a shot, putting late pressure on (the shooter).
“He’s making those plays that really give us a lot of momentum and help our team.”
At times McClure looks like a pulling guard in football who looks for linebackers and defensive backs to hit. He’ll screen one man, then move to another and sometimes a third on the same play. One of his screens popped Kyle Singler open for a 3-pointer in the first half.
McClure can defend just about any size player, and his spidery, arm-waving presence helps when Duke traps the ball.
“He can guard big guys, he can guard wings, he can guard point guards,” said assistant coach Chris Collins. “When he plays with energy and he’s engaged in the game, he just does a lot of little things that help the team win.”
With just over nine minutes left in the game, McClure made a big defensive play, running out to block a 3-point attempt by Maryland’s Eric Hayes that could have tied the game. The ball went out of bounds, leaving the Terps with one second on the shot clock. They failed to get a shot off, keeping Duke’s lead at 44-41.
McClure averages only two points a game, and his offense is usually just gravy in the scoring column. But he made a big contribution by hitting all three of his shots to tie his season high with six points.
And the timing of his scoring was impeccable. With just under six minutes to go, with Maryland in a zone, he surprised the Terps by catching a pass at the elbow of the lane, turning and driving hard for a left-handed layup.
A moment later, he was playing denial defense on his man and stepped into the passing lane for a steal that he took for another layup. That put the Blue Devils up 56-43.
“We’ve really tried to talk to (the bench players) about being aggressive, and not taking a back seat,” Collins said. “When you have your drives, take them. When you have open shots, take them. Those two buckets he got back-to-back really gave us some breathing room.”
McClure finished his scoring with a flourish. With 1:11 to go, he broke open behind Maryland’s press, took a fine pass from Gerald Henderson and slammed home a dunk for a 61-52 lead.
The end result was that McClure was taken to the post-game interview room for one of the few times in his career.
“I feel there are a lot of different ways I can help the team,” he said. “Sometimes it can be a drive to the basket, sometimes it can be a rebound, sometimes it can be a strong screen. The biggest thing that I enjoy doing is helping the team, whether it’s a little thing or, tonight, a couple things that stand out a little bit more.”
Although he was part of an ACC Championship team in his freshman season, McClure felt he didn’t contribute much. He missed the 2005-06 season after knee surgery, when the Blue Devils won the tournament again. So he feels much more a part of Duke’s effort this year.
“I think as a group it would be a great way to propel us into the latter part of March,” he said of a potential championship. “Everybody on our team feels a part of it this year and I think everybody will take ownership of it.”
To win the title, the Blue Devils must take care of a Florida State team that is in the ACC Championship Game for the first time. Kitchen has been instrumental in the Seminoles’ two wins so far, scoring the game-winning basket on a driving layup to beat Georgia Tech 64-62 and then playing an instrumental role in the 73-70 win over top-seeded North Carolina.
“This is one of the best feelings in the world,” Kitchen said. “A lot of people didn’t think we would get this far, and for us to come out and prove that we can play with best, it feels good.”
It feels especially good because in early December Kitchen didn’t even know if he would be a part of this team. He couldn’t practice while the Seminoles waited for the NCAA Clearinghouse to certify his eligibility. By the time that happened, he had missed nine games and had to play his way into shape.
Lately, the 6-4 guard has been in the starting lineup, which helps ease some pressure on star Toney Douglas.
“Derwin has made us a much better team because he’s a little older,” said coach Leonard Hamilton, “and he’s able to take a little pressure off of Toney from a ball-handling standpoint to give him a little bit more freedom to run a team and make decisions. He’s been a tremendous help to us.”
With Kitchen doing much of the ball-handling, Douglas burned the Tar Heels for 27 points. Kitchen chipped in with 11 and added six assists.
“He comes up big in big games,” Douglas said. “I really appreciate him being on the court with me.”
Kitchen took what the defense gave him, hitting four of six shots. But the pressure was on him the most when he stepped to the free throw line for a one-and-one with 15 seconds left and the Seminoles leading by one, 71-70. He had gotten there by grabbing a steal from Tyler Hansbrough and then getting fouled.
“There weren’t any butterflies,” Kitchen said. “I’m a old man. I’m 22 years old. I’m going to make it or I’m going to miss it, either way.”
Of course, Douglas wasn’t so casual about it.
“When he got fouled, I said, ‘We need these two free throws. Please make them,” Douglas said.
Kitchen’s first shot hit the front rim but fell in.
“I was holding my breath, like, ‘Please go in,’” Kitchen said.
He swished the second shot for the three-point lead and the Seminoles made a defensive stop on the Tar Heels’ two 3-point attempts to end the game.
So after a game-winning basket and two clutch free throws, what can Kitchen do for an encore Sunday?
“I just want to win,” he said. “I don’t care if I score zero points and don’t hit a game-winning bucket or anything. As long as I do what I need to do to get my team a ‘W’, that’s all that matters.”
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March, 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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