Clemente Just Wants to Win

Denis Clemente just wants to win. Whether it is by scoring points, grabbing rebounds, dishing assists, all Clemente wants to do is win.

That's all he has been used to. That's all he has known. Whether it's been playing for his AAU team the Miami Tropics when he first came to the United States or for his high school team Calusa Prep, all Clemente has done is win.

He's only 6-foot and 175 pounds, but he players bigger, far bigger than his size and it starts with his heart and passion he plays with. It's why he has always won. He has the will.

Even as a freshman last year at UM, the ‘Canes did more winning than losing as they advanced to the NIT Quarterfinals and went 18-16. It's because of the losing he is going through this year that he is so frustrated. But what bothers him the most is that his team simply isn't showing up to play a full forty minutes in any game of late.

The 'Canes have made a habit of playing in spurts. And those spurts have caused Miami to fall into big holes they can never get out of.

The trend continued Tuesday against Virginia Tech as the ‘Canes lost a home game to the Hokies 92-85.

Leading the ‘Canes with 24 points, it was Clemente who kept Miami in the game when it looked like they might get blown out of the building. Trailing 38-17, Clemente drained two three-pointers leading a 12-4 run to close the half and bring the ‘Canes to within 13.

And he was the man that pushed the tempo to get the ‘Canes back in the game in the second half where they cut the deficit to 78-74 with less than three minutes to play, but comeback or not, Clemente isn't happy with the results.

"Yeah, I'm frustrated," Clemente said following Tuesday's game. "I'm frustrated because we play 30 minutes. The first ten minutes we don't play and they are up by 20. We came back in the second half because we had good execution. But we played soft in the first ten minutes."

Clemente has begun to emerge as a leader on this team because of his emotion and the fact that he brings his heart and soul to every game. Head coach Frank Haith has taken notice. "Denis was outstanding," Haith said. "He came to compete."

The problem is that in the early parts of the most games of late, no one has joined him.

"We can't play soft in the first ten minutes," Clemente said. "I don't care how many points, assists, rebounds I get. I just want to help the team win."

But for that to happen, Clemente's body has to also get stronger. Because he plays so hard all the time and is relatively thin as a rail, his body burns fluids quickly. It explains why he cramped up at the end of the Virginia Tech game and was unable to finish the game out.

"Denis got a little nicked up at the end and wasn't able to finish the game," Haith said.

Clemente added, "I had a cramp in my calf and hamstring. I tried to go, but it was like going 5 on 4, so I told coach to take me out."

With North Carolina on the horizon, Clemente just wants his team to come and compete as hard as he does all the time.

"I don't care who we play," Clemente said. "We just have to play hard. This is the ACC. It's not going to be easy. Every game is big. You just have to go out and play 40 minutes because all the ACC teams are good."

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at rudy@canestime.com

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