Meadville Tribune

Sports

April 9, 2014

Clune was a nightmare for opposing defenses

MEADVILLE — “You looked like you were having a good time out there,” we asked Jason Clune early in the 2013-14 boys basketball season, just after he had recorded 19 points and nine rebounds in the Bulldogs’ lopsided tip-off tournament win over Conneaut.

He replied: “Oh, I always have a good time.”

There’s a lot that can be said about this 6-foot-3 sophomore. And among those would be that, night in and night out, the kid was really digging what he was doing.

“I enjoy,” he said during a telephone chat last month. “I enjoy.”

Fans of Meadville basketball likely enjoyed having him on their team , too. Clune went from an off-the-bench freshman early last year to one of the top young starters in all of District 10 this season.

That’s why we’re naming Jason Clune the Meadville Tribune’s 2013-14 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Asked if he agreed with the pick, Meadville’s first-year head coach Mark McElhinny responded, “Absolutely.”

And why?

“I mean, he’s talented,” said McElhinny. “He works hard. He’s constantly trying to learn the game and work on his skills. He’s a good player.”

The numbers concur. This season, Clune was among the top scorers in District 10, averaging 18.6 points per game. And he recorded that average in a wide variety of ways.

He scored plenty off the dribble, a skill he developed in part while playing one-on-one against his brother Trevor, a Meadville graduate and current forward for the Juniata College men’s team. The two of them could often be seen going at it during halftimes at Allegheny College’s men’s basketball games when their father, Rob, coached the team.

“Those halfcourt games, just battling it out with my brother, I’m going to remember those forever,” Jason said.

He could also shoot from the perimeter, where he led the Bulldogs with 37 3-pointers. He and Cochranton’s Nick Dickson tied for the second-most treys in Crawford County this season. (Conneaut’s Taylor Williams had the most with 38).

“(Clune) was gettng double-teamed a lot, or drawing the other team’s best defender,” said McElhinny. “So as far as offensive ability, he’s right up there with anybody in our region.”

Clune also created a lot of opportunities for himself off the boards. Along with leading the Bulldogs in scoring and 3-pointers — as well as finishing second in assists (51) and steals (31) — he was also tops in rebounding with 8.6 per game. And of his 181 rebounds, 64 of them — more than a third — were on the offensive end, meaning he was recording numerous second-chance points as well.

“(Clune) is a very versatile player,” said McElhinny. “He can play inside, play outside. He handles the ball. He’s got a lot of options.”

Simply put, Clune was the standout player for the ’Dogs. And while they faced their share of ups and downs during their 8-14 campaign, they did so while replacing most of their starters and a head coach from the year before.

“It was a rebuilding year,” said Clune. “I think we did a good job under the circumstances. We’re gelling. It’s going to be fun. It’s a bummer how the season ended, but it was still a good time and we learned a lot from it.”

And it wasn’t difficult to see the team coming together during the second half of the season, as evidenced by their upset victories over Sharon (53-30) and Farrell (56-50), games that Clune points to as his favorites of the season.

“The Farrell game has to be one,” he said. “And even the Sharon game at home too. The Sharon game at home because we played so well together. It was really fun to play. ... It was just a great team effort. That was really fun to be a part of.”

The second Sharon game was one of Clune’s least productive of the season, with just 10 points scored. The Farrell game, however, he put up a season-high 31.

“And Farrell — we beat the D-10 champs on their own floor. That was a great game.”

There’s another game that stands out for Clune. This was in a loss, however. The Bulldogs fell to George Junior 53-50 in the small but raucus Tigers’ gym. And shortly before halftime, Clune was fouled hard while going up for a layup and ended up playing the second half injured.

Yet, that didn’t stop Clune from scoring 27 points in the game, including 12 points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter as Meadville very nearly rallied to win it.

Perhaps more than any other time this season it was in that game —with its hostile crowd, a tough first half, the dirty play, the injury — that this young kid’s love of the game really showed.

“I thought it was a pretty dirty play. It was a basketball play,” said Clune. “I went up and he undercut me. I fell down and I immediately thought, ‘What hurts?’ I fell on my back but I ended up pulling my groin. And I could barely walk at halftime.

“But when I was in the locker room, I was like ‘You know what? I love this atmosphere.’ We’re playing in this gym and all the fans are getting on you. I love this. I’m just going to play and see what happens.

“I had a good game. We just came up a little short.”

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