After more than holding his own at the Nike EYBL tournament April 10-12 in Hampton, Va., sophomore combo guard Elijah Clarance is beginning to establish himself as a potential high-major recruit. The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder arrived in the United States from Sweden last September, and after a solid first year at St. Maria Goretti (Hagerstown, Md.), he’s ready to take his game to another level.
“Elijah played pretty well down at Boo Williams, but I think a lot of [college coaches] are waiting until June 15 when they’re really allowed to communicate with him directly,” Goretti head coach Matt Miller said of his class of 2017 recruit. “But I get contact from all different levels of Division I inquiring about him, curious as to whether he’s low or high [major]. But, you know, Elijah has a long ways to go and a lot to learn, but he definitely has a good amount of potential.
“Just in terms of strength, size and speed of the game. – he’s very capable of playing at the [high-major] level, but it’s just adjusting to playing with bigger, stronger guys, who are just as athletically talented. I think these [AAU] tournaments are really going to help him, just having that comfort and experience playing against high-level competition on a consistent basis. The talent is there, it’s just a matter of getting used to the competition and continuing to develop.”
Miller said he’s seen Clarance improve “every week” since he’s arrived on campus. The coach called his young guard an avid learner and a gym rat, someone who wants to be great and reach college basketball’s highest level.
“If he continues to grow,” Miller said, “it’s going to happen for him.”
During his first year at Goretti, Clarance averaged about 12 points and four assists, operating as both a point guard and shooting guard. He got off to a relatively slow start adjusting to American basketball, but by the winter months he began to flourish, becoming Goretti’s premier player.
“Elijah has a lot of potential in a lot of different ways. He’s very versatile in that he can play the 'one' or the 'two,' he’s one of the best passers I’ve every coached, and really the hardest worker I’ve every coached,” Miller said. “His shot has really developed over the year, his handles continue to improve, his motor is great, and his love for the game really translates in his work ethic. He’s just a great kid that’s hungry to learn, and we’re excited to have him for two more years and see how he develops.”
It’s safe to say numerous college programs will be monitoring Clarance’s development as well, including Maryland. Terps assistants Cliff Warren and Dustin Clark watched Clarance at the EYBL tournament, while Bino Ranson and Nima Omidvar have spoken to Miller about him in the past as well.
“Dustin, Bino and Cliff Warren have all talked to me, but I speak regularly with Nima," Miller said. “We go way back and I keep up with him pretty regularly, letting him know what’s going in on the program here. I grew up in Montgomery County, and he’s a D.C. guy, so just coaching in the area we’ve met many times. So he definitely knows about Elijah, and the rest of the staff at Maryland does as well.
“[The Terps] had some staff member at Boo Williams watching Elijah, for sure, and I think they’ll reach out to him once June 15 arrives.”
Miller went on to say that the Maryland staff, including head coach Mark Turgeon, has invited the Goretti team down to College Park, Md., on multiple occasions. During the last year, the Terps have hosted the Hagerstown school for Midnight Madness, the Feb. 24 game against Wisconsin and a Terps football game as well.
“Maryland has done a real good job reaching out and just educating our guys on their program and the school in general,” Miller said. “And with Elijah, he enjoyed himself down there and he’s watched their games on TV. He lives in Maryland, he’s getting used to the area, and he’s getting a feel for what the program there is all about.
“But at the same time, he’s still learning the process. He’s just getting acclimated to college basketball and what it’s about. I had to show him the NCAA tournament brackets and how that worked, because he had no idea (laughs).”
Miller said after AAU season Clarance will begin delving deeper into the recruiting process. He’ll begin lining up college visits once he has a better idea which programs are interested in him.
“We’ll probably really get a feel for what level he’s at by July,” Miller said. “These AAU tournaments will tell us a lot.”
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