Clemente Comments on Freshman Season

The freshman year for any college basketball player is generally filled with some high points and low points and for University of Miami freshman point guard Denis Clemente that proved to be no different.

After starting the first seven games of the season due to a broken foot that sidelined Anthony Harris for the first month and a half of the season, Denis Clemente went from getting about 30 minutes of floor time to barely 15 during the middle part of the season.

But it wasn't because he didn't do the job to the best of his ability and put out continuous effort to get better and better. It was more so the fact that he was still a very inexperienced player who was jumping from a Class 1A high school in Calusa Prep to the ACC where the level of play goes up more than a few notches.

After starring on the Miami Tropics AAU travel team for two years, there was no doubt Clemente could make the leap to the ACC and face off with some of the best guards in the nation as he out dueled the likes of North Carolina-signee Tywon Lawson when he drilled 38 points in his grill at the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2004.

But his role with the Hurricanes would be different and it took the young freshman time to adjust as he went from being high profile scoring guard to playing his natural position of point guard and having the responsibility of having to run the team by distributing the ball and getting his teammates involved and putting them in the position to score.

For a point guard who actually played the position in high school, such as current NBA-star and Rookie of the Year favorite Chris Paul, then transition was a bit easier, but when Clemente was at Calusa Prep, he had to score, score and score some more. He was a one-man show.

But it didn't stop Clemente from basically taking over as the University of Miami's starting point guard towards the end of the season when the ‘Canes were in the stretch run and was the starter as well in the NIT where the ‘Canes won two post season games for only the second time in school history before falling in the NIT quarterfinals to Michigan.

Clemente admitted there was an adjustment period for him.

"Going from high school to college, the players are much stronger," Clemente said. "They are real quick and play much better defense. It's not like high school where everyone is the same size."

It also didn't stop Clemente from winning the Hustlin' Canes Award given to the player who most exemplified just that during the season.

When he was presented with the award it was said that he was one player that the coaches knew had something special about them and had a great future because he absolutely hated to lose even in practice during drills.

Said assistant Michael Hunt of Clemente when he presented him the award, "You don't want to be around him when his team loses even in practice."

Having gained a lot of experience, the type of attitude that he has and the determination he has towards winning, will only help Clemente as he is expected to more than likely be the starting point guard entering his sophomore year while it's quite possible that Harris might move over to the shooting guard position.

"I am supposed to be the starter next year. I think it's going to be different because I need to shoot more than this last year," Clemente said. "I need to put in work and get better on defense and keep working hard on my body. And work hard everyday in practice."

Clemente averaged over 32 points a game during his high school career, but saw his average drop to 5.5 points per game as a collegiate freshman. He seemingly struggled with his outside shot for a good part of the season, but his play definitely picked up down the stretch as he retook the starting point guard job.

There's no doubt he'll continue to get better and the work he puts in this summer will definitely give a good indication of what to expect from him.

"You know, you need to go to the weight room everyday, only one day off is Wednesday," Clemente said. "You need to practice everyday, shoot, conditioning, agility, everything."

However, Clemente couldn't help but take a ribbing shot as his former high school team, Calusa Prep, as it won the Class 1A state championship the year after he graduated.

"How lucky man," Clemente said. "They had a lucky year. He (Coach Tim Fowler) needed me. I know he needed me."

Just like the ‘Canes will need him to take control in 2006-2007.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat covers Hurricane basketball for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com


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