IOWA CITY, Iowa - In the end, it was Anthony Clemmons who decided to stay at Iowa. He was greatly influenced by what he learned in his first two seasons with the Hawkeyes, however.
As seniors last winter, they played key roles in returning Iowa to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Their impact overrode Clemmons' consideration to leave the Hawkeyes after a rough sophomore campaign.
"A lot of people don't know it but Dev recruited me to be here," Clemmons said. "His family and my family are really tight. Before I even committed I talked to him and he told me he would be here for me to help me grow as a player.
"He and Mel were tremendous when it came to leadership with me. They always were by my side even when things weren't going right. They always boosted me up to keep going at it, even if I wasn't playing to make them better. Now, it's my turn to help others and become that leader."
Clemmons (6-2, 195) arrived at Iowa from Sexton High in East Lansing, MI. He took part in summer pick-up basketball with Marble, who was from Southfield.
As a freshman, Clemmons played a integral part in helping the Hawkeyes reach the NIT Championship game, during which he had seven points and three assists against Baylor. He played in all 38 games with 13 starts and ranked third among Big Ten freshmen with 105 assists, the sixth best total ever for an Iowa first-year player. He also stood out as one of the team's best perimeter defenders.
This past summer, Clemmons admitted that his early success went to his head. He fattened up, literally, on his accolades and lost his edge mentally and physically. His minutes dropped from 16.8 to 11.3 per gamma from his freshman to sophomore seasons as did most of his important statistics.
The transfer rate among Division I basketball players sits at an all-time high. And the year Clemmons endured often sparks a departure.
"Very few people handle what he went through last year the way he did," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "Most people would just transfer. I didn't play him as much. He didn't play as much or as well. Nine out of 10 kids today blame everybody else. He took full responsibility and ownership of the season he had, which was unexpected based on how he played when he was a freshman."
Clemmons considered moving on during his sophomore run. By the time it was over with an overtime to loss to Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, he already was accepting responsibility for his failures and vowing to come back stronger to the Hawkeyes.
"I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if this was the place for me," Clemmons said. "I prayed a lot just to make sure that this was the place for me. I got a signal that this was the place for me. I'm glad I made the decision to stay and I'm looking forward to this year."
Iowa's '14-15 backcourt is crowded. Clemmons, returning starter Mike Gesell and JUCO transfer Trey Dickerson all see point guard as their primary position. Gesell does have the ability to slide to the two spot but McCaffery said he would start the preseason at the one.
Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok are tangling for the starting off-guard position vacated by Marble, who is with the Orlando Magic. There could be times, however, when they're on the bench or at the three with Gesell at the two and either Clemmons or Dickerson at the one. A lot of options exist for McCaffery to play the hot hands.
"We all bring something different to the table," Clemmons said. "It's the coaches' decision on when to play who and how to play who. We're all talented. All we can do is push each other every day."
Clemmons best asset might be his ability to defend. He holds an advantage in that area over all the other members of the backcourt. And McCaffery is saying that defensive shortcomings played the biggest role in the team struggling down the stretch last season.
"I'm going to get back after it on defense," Clemmons said. "That was one of my downfalls (in '13-14). I didn't get after it on defense like I should have. That's what I'm going to focus on more this year and let everything else fall into place."
Clemmons looks a lot more fit than he was in March. He spent time this summer in Lansing playing with professional and college players like Dramond Green and Denzell Valentine. He also improved his diet by cutting out fried foods.
"When you see him you'll notice a difference. He's leaner. He's more explosive. And he's playing like an experienced veteran should play," McCaffery said.
Clemmons showed off his trimmer physique that allowed him to move better during the Prime Time League this summer. For the third year in a row, his team won the championship. In July's title game, he scored 26 points, dished out six assists and pulled down six rebounds.
This summer Clemmons showed the aggressiveness that made him a valuable player his freshman season. His attitude appeared to be back where he needed it to be.
"He's always been a very good player. He's always been a very hard worker,' Gesell said. "The biggest thing that he's improved on this year is his confidence. At times last year, that's why he didn't play up to his potential was his confidence. He's grown in that are and he'll really be an impact player this year, in my opinion."
Now that he's an upperclassmen, Clemmons is accepting a leadership role with open arms. He's using what he learned from Marble and Basabe.
That calling got off to a bumpy start this summer. Clemmons spoke out about the attention being given to Dickerson. While it was meant as a warning not to get caught up in the hype that handicapped him, Clemmons' words were taken as a challenge to the newcomer.
Clemmons contacted Dickerson shortly after the interview and explained what he meant. They've since become good friends.
"We laugh about it all the time in the locker room," Dickerson said. "Sapp (Clemmons' nickname) is my bro. We're real close. We just compete with each other."
While they're facing off for playing time, Clemmons still sees it as his responsibility to assist Dickerson in transitioning from junior college to the Big Ten.
"That's my job to help him grow as a player and continue to get better," Clemmons said. "I give him tips on what can make him successful on this level and what I've done in my two years that has helped me. I tell him just to be him and never lose confidence. Do what you do best and let everything else fall into place. Don't go out of your way to try to impress fans and stuff like that. Just be you and let everything else fall into place."
It's advice Clemmons has used to get himself back on track.