During the regular season — particularly in the early part of the season — Clarksville senior point guard Calvin McEwen was happy to distribute to his teammates.
Last month, Generals coach Jason Connell came to McEwen and told him he needed his star guard to become a scorer at the Class 2A Southridge Regional.
“Early on, he was looking to get other people’s confidence going,” Connell said. “Lately, he’s been looking to score. He’s very unselfish.”
McEwen responded with 17 points in Clarksville’s 49-45 overtime win over Austin in the semifinal and 16 more in its 42-36 overtime win over Linton-Stockton as the Generals won their first regional title ever.
With Clarksville trailing defending regional championship Linton 29-27 with 3.1 seconds left, McEwen delivered the game-tying assist to Marquise Parrish as time expired.
That’s who Calvin McEwen is. Whatever needs to be done to help the Generals win, that’s what he’ll do.
“He is a kid that is the glue to our team,” Connell said. “He keeps everybody on the right page. He leads by example. He’s become a pretty good leader.”
On Saturday, McEwen will lead the Class 2A No. 2 Generals against No. 1 Park Tudor and All-American Trevon Bluiett with a berth in the state championship game on the line.
On Monday, McEwen took some time to answer questions from sports editor Greg Mengelt in the News and Tribune’s ongoing “On the Spot” series.
QUESTION: I was at your game early in the year against Floyd Central. There were three or four times during the game that you beat your man and could have put the ball in the basket. Instead, you made a pass to a teammate. Was that a conscious effort on your part to get teammates involved early in the year?
MCEWEN: “I did. With some new guys working into the rotation, I wanted to get them a taste of what varsity basketball is like and just get them some buckets early, get them some confidence. Honestly, it seems like it worked, because we have some guys playing really well right now.”
Q: Coach Connell said a few weeks back that he asked you to become more of a scorer. Was that something you liked hearing?
MCEWEN: “I was kind of struggling early — a little bit — on coming to grips with my role. Last year, I had to facilitate more than this year. This year, I have to put some points on the board for us to be able to win. I’m comfortable doing whatever. I’m confident in my ability to facilitate, score the basketball, get others involved. I can do a little bit of it all. Late in the season, I came to the realization that I was going to have to put some shots up for us to win some games.”
Q: Before you guys started to have some success, it had been about 30 years before Clarksville had had some real success. At what point, did you realize you had something special?
MCEWEN: “I came up from Silver Creek, and honestly, when I was at Silver Creek looking at Clarksville, people didn’t really respect them at all. When I transferred and moved over, I really wanted to build this up to a program where people had to respect it. We garnered people’s respect. I really think through hard work and dedication from the players and the coaching staff — through everybody — we’ve earned people’s respect around here.”
Q: Was there a point in the process where you thought you may have a championship team coming?
MCEWEN: “If there was a certain point, I would have to say sectional final my freshman year. We drew the bye and beat a good West Washington team [43-39 in 2010-11]. We were in the sectional final with Brownstown that was the powerhouse around here. We competed with them. We only lost by four. On the bus ride back, we told ourselves next year was going to be something. The next year, it turned out to be [18-3 in 2011-12] and things just rolled from there.”
Q: You lost your brother Aidan coming into this season. Did you still have an idea that this might be a pretty special year.
MCEWEN: “Honestly, I was telling people after last year with full honesty and full faith that this year’s team was going to be our year. I told them not to worry, we weren’t going to struggle and that things are going to be just fine. Things turned out pretty nice.”
Q: The win over Jeffersonville [63-45 on Dec. 21] — the two-time defending 4A sectional champions — was that a confidence boost?
MCEWEN: “That definitely was. I think at that point, we had won a couple games, but we really hadn’t played anybody. I don’t want to say we hadn’t played anybody, but Jeff is Jeff. We had some guys who may have been a little shaky, not as confident, but we were on fire and got some things rolling. After that game, it really set the tone for the rest of the season, showed some guys that we can play with anybody. Then we go up to Indy and play with [defending state champion] Bowman Academy [in a 79-76 loss]. Honestly, we didn’t play our best up there and we competed with one of the best teams in the state of Indiana. We proved to ourselves that we can play with some really good teams, and we proved it to everyone else, too.”
Q: How important was repeating as sectional champions for you?
MCEWEN: “People asked me if I felt any pressure. There was no pressure. Last year was a different team. Last year was a different year. We expected to win a sectional, but there was no pressure. Nobody can put any pressure on you expect yourself.”
Q: When you were watching the Perry Central-Linton game on Saturday, how much did you want to play Linton-Stockton for a little revenge after they ended your season last year?
MCEWEN: “I really wanted Linton from a selfish standpoint. Granted, it wasn’t the same team as last year, but it was nice to have a rematch for a regional championship. It was a dogfight to the final buzzer. It was a great game.”
Q: How great did that feel?
MCEWEN: “Oh, it was amazing. The greatest feeling of my life. At no point in that game did I have any doubt in my mind that we were going to win, but we were down two with four seconds left. That last possession of regulation, we end up tying it. It was just crazy. I didn’t think something like that would happen.”
Q: Take me through that play, your assist to Marquise. Was that how the play was drawn up?
MCEWEN: “Coach looked at me and Andrew [Jones] and said ‘What do you guys want to do?’ I said, ‘Just give me the ball.’ Everything worked out perfectly. I was about to pull up and shoot it. It was a spur of the moment thing. I’m glad I didn’t pull up and shoot it. Everything worked out perfectly. I told people jokingly that it was the best play in Clarksville basketball history. We can’t sit and bask in the glory, we have another game to win Saturday.”
Q: Let’s talk about that. You beat Jeffersonville, you played Bowman tough, you won at Corydon, is Park Tudor another step up?
MCEWEN: “People want to put a little more weight and more focus on it because it’s a semistate game. The way I look at it is it’s a semistate game before and after, but when they toss the ball up, when we step on the 84x50, it’s just another basketball game. We’re two great teams going at it, No. 1 and No. 2 in the state. You can’t ask for anything more than that. But it’s just another game. We feel like, just like any other team we play, we can get it done.”
Q: You know it’s going to be packed with people from all over the state there. You’re not feeling nervous about it yet?
MCEWEN: “Like I said, nobody can put any pressure on your except yourself. That might sound far-fetch, but that’s just how I am as a person and a player. I’m not going to let the people in the stands affect the way that I play.”
Q: Does it mean anything extra to you personally to have a McDonald’s All-American on the other side?
MCEWEN: “He’s a great player. There’s no doubt about that.”
Q: Does it make you want to ...
MCEWEN: “Rise to the occasion? We definitely have some guys on our team who, when the big time calls, they step up and rise to the occasion.”
Q: I’m talking about you personally. I know you feel like you’re at or near that level.
MCEWEN: “Not to sound too confident, but I feel like I’m one of the better players in the state. I’m definitely one of the better players in this area. But we’re not playing 1-on-1. It’s not me vs. him. It’s about who’s team executes better. I think we can get it done.”
Q: Next year, you’re headed to South Bend [Holy Cross College] with your Andrew. Is that something you guys decided together.
MCEWEN: “It’s something we definitely talked about. He’s one of my best friends, but I wasn’t going to make my decision on him simply going there. I took a visit over fall break and I loved it up there. I told myself if they were going to offer, then that’s where I was going to be. It just felt right.”
Q: Can you two replicate the success there that you’ve had at Clarksville at Holy Cross?
MCEWEN: “I definitely think we can. I definitely think we can go up there and do some of the things we’ve done down here. But I’m not worried about that right now. All I’m worried about is Saturday.”