Lake Norman & Mooresville

Guard hopes to take Mustangs back to the top

When Antwaine McLean steps on the basketball court, he goes full-speed all of the time with an energy that his coaches say is "contagious" to the rest of his East Lincoln team.

But while the 5-foot-9, 155-pound junior guard's intensity can be his biggest strength, it can also be his biggest weakness at times.

"Antwaine is a hard worker and goes 100 percent all of the time in practice and in games," said East Lincoln basketball coach Neil Hodges. "But he is also a very emotional guy and he lets people know it on the court. We're trying to teach him not to get too high and not to get too low. We want him to stay on a more even keel without changing the way he plays."

McLean's energy is one of the driving forces for a young Mustang team that is still trying to find itself at 8-6 overall and 2-3 in the Southern Piedmont Conference play.

The junior point guard, who started as a sophomore, has made the transition from role player and defensive stopper to the primary ball-handler and one of the top scoring options on the Mustang team.

McLean's quickness and ability to get to the basket have allowed him to lead the team in points (12 ppg), steals (2.5 spg) and three-point shooting (42 percent) and he is second on the squad in assists (3.1 apg).

"Playing point guard is kind of like being a quarterback on the football team," said McLean, who is one of the Mustangs' co-captain. "I have to know where everybody is on the floor and tell them where to be. It's been an adjustment for me, but I'm getting used to it."

While the East Lincoln coaches are working on McLean's overall game, they are still pleased with his progress.

"He's got a lot of energy and a lot of toughness," said East Lincoln assistant coach Chip Ashley. "The way he plays rubs off on everybody. I think it gets other guys fired up and playing on that same level."

McLean's versatility extends beyond the basketball court, as he is also a starting wide receiver on the football team and a key member of the track team's jumping and sprinting units.

But for now, his only focus is on the hardwood, where McLean is a leader of one of youngest East Lincoln teams in recent history, that has "no real stars," according to Hodges and Ashley.

The Mustangs lineup also feature junior forward Patrick Rendleman (9 ppg), sophomores Garrett Young (9 ppg) and Tyler Brock (8 ppg) as well as the lone senior who plays significant time in forward Parker Hills (6 ppg, 5 rpg).

"We are about where we thought we would be at this point in the season," said Hodges. "But it is time for us to step up, and generally this is when we have started to show improvement in the past."

Hodges and East Lincoln are used to winning, as the Mustangs have won 21 games or more the last four seasons, winning three SPC titles in that span. McLean and company want to be a part of that winning tradition.

To challenge for another SPC crown, the Mustangs have to navigate through a tough, conference slate that includes reigning champion, Cherryville, as well as archrival Lincolnton, as the top teams.

"We haven't had the start we are used to here," said McLean. "But I think we are starting to come together and get used to each other and play at a higher level. We definitely want to turn things around and get back to winning like we are used to."