A fire burns within Clarksville senior Aidan McEwen.
It’s not a small flame, like his first name (which means “little fire” in its Irish origin) suggests. It’s the roaring inferno of a competitor, a wind-whipped blaze that consumes him when the game — no matter what the contest — begins. He must win.
It’s all that matters. Personal stats and glory? Not interested. Ego? Not evident. Cutthroat? Absolutely. He takes the famous Al Davis mantra of the Oakland Raiders — “Just win, baby” — very personally.
“He will do anything to win,” said his father Brian, an assistant coach at Clarksville. “And if you don’t win, what you did doesn’t matter. He battles like no other kids I’ve been around.”
McEwen is in the perfect position to make sure Clarksville wins. He is the undisputed basketball star and leader of the Generals as they start their quest for a Class 2-A sectional championship. He averaged 18.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists last year during Clarksville’s breakout 18-3 season.
He is Clarksville’s commander-in-chief.
“He is the voice,” coach Jason Connell said. “He doesn’t say a whole lot, but the kids look up to him. He’s a pure leader. When he walks on the floor, you know he’s there with just his presence. He’s a relentless kid. I’ve not been around anybody like him.
“Last year, he led us in about every category, but he does the things that don’t show up as well — the hustle plays, deflections, diving for loose balls. He’s that kind of player.”
McEwen will be the center of attention this season, and he’s comfortable in that role. He’s been that his whole life.
It started practically from birth. The McEwens worked on a Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona when Aidan and his brother Calvin were born, and Brian described his older son as the “community kid, a celebrity. He’s not uncomfortable in any situation. Never has been.”
Aidan doesn’t remember that part of his life, except through the family photo album. But the next chapter, his move from Silver Creek to Clarksville, is vivid. He came to Clarksville as a freshman and found a school with a damaged reputation, little spirit and a mediocre basketball team that was going to go through coaching turmoil.
If it is possible for one kid to change all that, McEwen has, or at least done more than his share. His love for the school has become infectious, and the success on the basketball court kindled a fire among the student body. Now he walks down the hallways with pride.
“It’s worked out perfectly,” he said. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”
Can he script a storybook ending? Clarksville, 18-3 a year ago, is primed for a memorable season. McEwen will have plenty of support on a talented roster, but this will be his team to lead, carry, drag or pull to great heights.
“It makes my job easier when everyone else can do something well,” McEwen said. “I don’t have all the pressure on me, and I like to get other people involved. It’ll be great to watch.”
Don’t be fooled by the nice-guy demeanor away from the game. Even in practice, where mistakes can be corrected, McEwen chases perfection. Turnovers or sloppiness usually cause a roll of his eyes, a shake of the head, and finally a growl.
“When he speaks, he means it,” teammate Austin Johnson said. “He definitely motivates our whole team. He gets us going, and he’s not afraid to yell at you. And if your head is low, he’ll pick you back up.”
McEwen spent the fall on the football field, playing quarterback, honing his leadership skills, cementing his toughness. Now he’s ready for his true love. Clarksville hasn’t won a sectional since 1986, and that’s all that matters from now until March. Winning is the primary and sole objective.
“It’s just in my blood,” McEwen said. “You always want to be the best you can be. I try to strive for that every day.”