By Matthew Sewell, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – This weekend, one of the best athletes to ever grace the hardwood in the high country will enter the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Former Lumberjack men's basketball center Dan McClintock, who played in Flagstaff from 1996-2000, was chosen for induction following an illustrious career that included an NAU all-time career high 196 blocks and .632 field goal percentage, as well as the highest NBA draft position by any NAU basketball player when he went 53rd overall to the Denver Nuggets in 2000.
A star athlete's story is always made sweeter through humble beginnings, and such is the case with McClintock. Just four years before the senior season that made him one of the NCAA's top centers, McClintock wasn't being recruited by the Jacks out of Visalia High School in California. It was, in fact, a twist of fate that got an NAU assistant's eyes on the seven footer for the first time.
"[Former NAU assistant] Jamie Dixon saw me play a high school game on his way to see a player in Fresno," recalls McClintock. "There was fog in that arena and the highway was closed, so instead he looked for a local game to watch."
The rest was history. Dixon and head coach Ben Howland established a relationship with McClintock, obviously impressed with what they saw. The catalysts, as McClintock remembers, in getting him to northern Arizona were the honesty of the coaches and the support granted by them in his adamancy to redshirt his freshman year to ensure graduation.
"Other schools just told me what they thought I wanted to hear, but [Howland and Dixon] were very honest with me, and that was important," said McClintock, who graduated from NAU in 2001 with a degree in criminal justice. "Otherwise Flagstaff was a perfect fit for me. I was from a small town, and I loved the mountains and the four seasons."
After a bit of a roller coaster redshirt season, McClintock began to build lasting relationships with his teammates. The chemistry on and off the court was fostered by Howland's constant encouragement for the team to work for each other, and McClintock credits his team's bond for their postseason success during his four years.
McClintock's teams earned the Big Sky Conference regular season title his freshman and sophomore years (1997-98), going 21-7 and 21-8 overall in those seasons, respectively. McClintock, though an underclassman, still averaged about 10 points and 1.5 blocks per game during those years, helping the Lumberjacks reach the NIT as a freshman and the NCAA tournament as a sophomore.
McClintock's junior season was just as successful, as he tallied an11.4 points per game average, and increased his blocks average to 1.6 per game after swatting 42 shots over the course of the season. The Lumberjacks matched their record from the previous year at 21-8.
Following the 1998-99 season, Howland left Flagstaff to accept the head coach position at UCLA, handing the job over to Mike Adras, who held the position until his resignation last year. Adras had coached McClintock as one of Howland's assistants, so the transition was smooth heading to his final season.
"Our mindset was the same when Coach Adras took over, and we knew he would be there for us too," said McClintock. "He was a guy who trusted us and trusted our opinion, and his door was always open to us players. By that time we were a mature group of mostly upperclassmen who were used to winning, and he did a terrific job in that transition that led to our success."
Adras recalls coaching McClintock and what a special opportunity it was for him to be able to head a team with such strong chemistry.
"Dan is a terrific person to be around, he matured and grew up in the program, and it was fun to watch him progress through the five years he spent in Flagstaff," said Adras.
That 2000 season was McClintock's best by far. During the course of that season, McClintock joined teammate Ross Land as a member of NAU's 1,000 point club, he set the all-time record for blocks by rejecting 70 of the teams 92 on the season, he was named to the Big Sky All-Conference First Team, and led the Lumberjacks to not only a Big Sky Tournament title, but a second bid (NAU's last) in the NCAA Tournament.
In NAU's game against St. John's in the first round, McClintock was named the CBS/Chevrolet Player of the Game after notching 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in a narrow 61-56 loss, concluding his collegiate career on a high note.
The action wasn't over yet for McClintock, however. Just months later he was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the NBA draft, a position that still ranks highest among any NAU alum.
McClintock only appeared in six games for the team over the 2000-01 seasons, but he speaks fondly of his short stint at the highest level.
"I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity to play with the Nuggets," McClintock said. "It was a great time, and I loved every minute of it, even if it was unloading the veterans' luggage off the plane in a Minnesota blizzard with a suit on. Those were the things that made it fun.
"What I'll remember most, though, is starting my first game against the Lakers and having my family in the stands."
Though his time in the NBA was short, McClintock still hasn't disappeared from pro ball. Since 2001, he has played professionally in China, France, Italy, Latvia, Germany, and the Ukraine, where he currently competes for MBC Mykolaiv.
To be fair, McClintock's life has hardly been only about basketball. He has traveled the world outside of basketball as an advocate for orphaned children, relating his passion for sport to those kids everywhere he goes. He and his wife, Alisha, have been happily married for 10 years, and they recently adopted two sons, Zekariyas, 3, and Kebek, 4.
"It's great to see someone in the midst of a professional career give back to so many people," said Adras, who has kept in constant contact with McClintock since his Lumberjack days. "Dan has always had great perspective in relating to people, and I really admire that about him."
Dan and Alisha are active in real estate and make their home in Phoenix during the offseason, and plan to make it a permanent residence following McClintock's career.