Clemente Signs With UM

Denis Clemente, the 14th ranked point guard by Scout.com, signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Miami on the first day of the early signing period. Clemente led the state of Florida in scoring last season at 33.5 points per game for Calusa Preparatory School—a 1A school in Miami, Florida. Family, classmates, teammates, coaches, and teachers all joined Clemente for his signing. Also present were orange and green banners, balloons, and streamers.

"I am real excited right now," Clemente said. "I feel good and very happy."

The Calusa community was extremely happy for the 5-foot-11, 165-pound point guard from Puerto Rico. It was a day filled with smiles, cheers, and congratulations. The biggest cheer came for Clemente's mother who was by his side throughout the ceremony after reverend Linton Fowler told the crowd, "Denis would be here today without us. He would be here without his coaches and his teammates. But he would not be here without his mother."

It was clear to see the school embraced Denis Clemente with open arms after he moved to the United States before his junior year of high school. The K-12 school consists of nearly 300 students and there are about 15 in his senior class. Everyone in attendance was in agreement that this was exciting moment and it is not something that happens very often. They are thrilled they will be able to watch him play close to home.

"They are all good people," said a smiling Clemente in English—a language he is still trying to master. "I like everything about the city. I love Miami."

His high school basketball coach, Tim Fowler, is in his 20th year of coaching had plenty of good things to say about Clemente the basketball player. He had even more to say about Clemente the person.

"He is liked by everybody." Fowler said. "He is an extremely humble young man. He doesn't come from a background of wealth so he appreciates what he has. His teammates rally around him. They make sure if he struggles they are there for him. They feed on his humility. As good as he is, he never looks at the worst player on the team or the best player on the team, beside himself, as if they were beneath him. He plays hard with them and he does well academically. I don't think I could go into a country and speak a language that is not your own, carry a load, and do well."

A major reason why Clemente chose Miami was his close friend, Guillermo Diaz, goes there. Diaz also grew up in Puerto Rico before moving to Miami in high school to earn a basketball scholarship. The two have known each other since Clemente was 12 years old. Now, they talk every day and hang out when they can. Diaz loves the way Clemente plays—fast.

"I played with him a lot when we were younger," Clemente said. "We would always play 21 and it was a lot of fun. He is a real good player. He played real good last year and I think he can go to the NBA."

Diaz has offered some advice for his childhood friend.

"He told me to work hard and play hard," Clemente said. "Then, just go out there and have fun."

Another reason Clemente wanted to stay home for his college career was the competition he will face in the ACC. The speed he brings to the guard position will allow him to make an easier transition to the fast-paced ACC. However, he knows he needs to improve in order to compete at the next level.

"Miami is in a very good conference right now," Clemente said. "There is an opportunity to play teams like North Carolina, Duke, and Georgia Tech. I like the speed and the good guards in the conference. I want to work on my defense because the ACC is tough. I know they have real good players and it is something I want to work on."

According to Fowler, "He is probably the quickest high school basketball player I have seen. That means every level and every team. He pushes the ball up the court as good as anybody. His transition game is phenomenal. He is offensive-minded, but his defense has improved tremendously. He brings so much quickness and has a court presence about him that he knows where everybody is. If you don't have your hands up you are going to take one in the face. His main attribute is his speed and he can score from anywhere on the court."

Last year Clemente was named MVP, all-state, all-county, and player of the year averaging 34.2 points and 11.7 assists per game. This season, which starts in less that two weeks, he hopes to lead his team to the state title.

"I am very excited about this season," Clemente said. "We have some good players and we have a good team again this year. It is nice because there are four other players from Puerto Rico. It is very nice."

An individual goal he has for himself is that he would like to have his number retired at Calusa. Not because it is a pride thing, but because he wants to continue what he did and maybe better, maybe be Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida.

"His main thing he said was, ‘Coach I want to have such a great year and we do so well as a team that this is something that I can leave for Calusa,'" said Fowler. "That is our goal for him and we are all pushing for him. we want to see him reach that goal."

Clemente wears number 15 and has worn it ever since he began playing basketball at the age of five. Miami head coach Frank Haith has already told him he will have the number waiting for him when he gets there. Question is, will number 15 be worn again at Calusa? Unlikely.

Note: SF Adrian Thomas (Pembroke Pines, FL) also signed with the Hurricanes on Wednesday…SG Brian Asbury (Miami, FL) has orally committed to Miami, but is holding off signing his letter of intent until Friday, November 11.

Christopher Stock is a Staff Writer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@canestime.com.

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