Saturday, January 17, 2004

Catching up with ...Roger McClendon

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Roger McClendon isn't one to boast about basketball. When the Enquirer called looking for the former University of Cincinnati great, his secretary wasn't even aware he had been an athlete.

Part of that is McClendon's personality. More is geography: He works in Louisville.

"When I first started this job, people here were like, 'McClendon, McClendon ... why do we know that name?' " he said.

McClendon's colleagues at Yum! Brands Inc. - many of them Louisville fans - finally remembered.

"They were like, 'We can't have him working here. He beat up on us in college,' " he said.

It was good-natured ribbing. They reminisced with the 37-year-old engineer about his basketball brilliance. From 1984-88, he totaled 1,789 points to rank second only to Oscar Robertson on the school scoring list. (Steve Logan and Danny Fortson since have passed him.)

The sharp-shooting swingman might have scored more, but his first two seasons were before the 3-point shot's inception. Also, he played on teams that averaged just 13 victories during his tenure.

Nonetheless, he led the Bearcats to victory in his first three games against the vaunted Cardinals. His finest moment came Jan. 20, 1986, in Freedom Hall, when his career-high 35 points led UC back from a 17-point, second-half deficit for an 84-82 upset of the eventual national champs.

McClendon never played in the NBA. He pulled his groin playing in a pro summer league and couldn't attend the NBA camps to which he had been invited.

He had another year to finish on his degree, after which he decided to begin his engineering career.

Since 1997, he has worked for Yum! - the world's largest restaurant company. McClendon is the director of global engineering for two of its brands, Long John Silver's and A & W. He is married with four children.

"I have to be a quiet Bearcat fan down here, but I've had it pretty easy," he said. "With Cincinnati dominating (Conference USA), I never say anything. I let the basketball team speak for me."

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Catching up with ...Roger McClendon
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