ESPN the Magazine ESPN
In This Issue
Message Board
Customer Service

The Life

Plan B -- Sergio McClain
ESPN The Magazine

Every team needs a go-to guy. But the best teams have options to spare. ESPN The Magazine profiles Sergio McClain, Ryan Mendez, Andre Hutson and Chris Duhon.

Forget Plan B. Or even Plan C. Just think of Sergio McClain as the X-factor. A menacing 6'3 3/4", 228-pound slab of aggression, he's the closest thing Illini fans have seen to pure toughness since the days of Dick Butkus. Witness those 14 points he laid on Charlotte after bruising his shin and playing only eight minutes of Illinois' first-round romp over Northwestern State. (He averages just 7.3 ppg.) McClain is a glue guy, pure and simple, a senior who plays anywhere and does whatever his team needs. Pull down the big rebound. Grab the loose ball. Make the smart pass. Best of all, he locks down opponents of all shapes and sizes, even going so far as dropping or gaining weight depending on his upcoming assignment. Earlier this season, he ran more laps and ate more salad to get down to 220 for Andre Barrett, Seton Hall's slippery 5'8" point. Three years ago, he carb-loaded his way to 240 for a battle with Michigan's 320-pound Tractor Traylor.

Not that any of this surprises the folks back home on the hardscrabble streets of southside Peoria, Ill., where McClain played prep ball with Illini center Marcus Griffin and point man Frank Williams. "In our neighborhood, you learn all about survival skills," says Wayne McClain, who coached his son and Manual High to an unprecedented four state titles. "You have to be mentally sharp every day."

After Illinois got whacked at Iowa on Jan. 11, Serge shaved off his beloved Afro to show his teammates he was done screwing around. "I was making a statement," he says. "We're going to war." The very next game, against Michigan, he finished with the first triple-double in Illinois history: 10 points, 11 boards, 11 assists.

Just in case anyone still hadn't gotten the message, McClain rented a tape of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to put the Illini in the right mood as they readied for two-a-days after losing to Indiana in the Big Ten tourney. "It's all about toughness and heart," he says. And there's no better option than that.

This article appears in the April 2 issue of ESPN The Magazine. E-mail Bruce Feldman at

Latest Issue

Also See
Sergio McClain player file

ESPN The Magazine: Plan B -- Chris Duhon
Duke's point guard understudy ...

ESPN The Magazine: Plan B -- Ryan Mendez
Stanford's gunner receives ...

ESPN The Magazine: Plan B -- Andre Hutson
Michigan State's undersized ...'s Men's NCAA Tourney page
null's Illinois clubhouse

ESPN The Magazine: G-Force
Jason Giambi looks like ...

The Magazine: G-Force, Part 2
Part 2 of our cover story: ...

ESPN The Magazine: Follow the Leader
The Blazers need someone to ...

SportsCenter with staples
Subscribe to ESPN The Magazine for just ...
Who's on the cover today?

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story

Customer Service


BACK ISSUES Help | Media Kit | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | PR
Copyright ©2002 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site. For ESPN the Magazine customer service (including back issues) call 1-888-267-3684. Click here if you're having problems with this page.