Morgan Clyburn: One Step Beyond (Part I)

The Bootleg recently enjoyed a lengthy chat with senior Morgan Clyburn, who made excellent use of her on court time in critical minutes for the Cardinal last season, to get the lowdown on her future plans and her hopes for her senior campaign.

Senior F/C Morgan Clyburn has battled worsening foot problems throughout her Cardinal career, yet persevered to make important contributions to Stanford's march to the Final Four. She discussed her play in 2007-08, her future both on and off the court, and her thoughts on keys to success in the upcoming season. This is Part I of a two-part interview.

Clyburn played through foot problems and pain during last season. How is she doing now? How are her feet?

"I had surgery in April and again in June. I've been doing really well. I'm doing rehab right now. I hope to be back in time for the season. I'll just keep working hard."

After extensive surgery on both feet, is there a time frame for her return?

"Yes and no. They haven't really done this before, at least not all the stuff that I had done at once. It's not like an ACL where they know by week eleven that you should be doing this, this, and this. I have to just see how things go, taking it a couple of days at a time. Right now I'm hoping to be back in time for the season. I don't know whether or not that will for sure happen but all I can do is work as hard as I can and hope for the best."

She's been dealing with issues in her feet for a while now?

"Basically I had very terrible bone structure in my feet since birth. It was never really anything that bothered me in high school because I wasn't really doing the same amount of running and pounding that you do in college. It's also something that gets worse with age. Freshman year it started to get a little bit to where it was bothering me but I played through it. Sophomore year it started getting worse, where I was having cortisone injections and we tried different orthotics. And then last year it just got to the point where it was getting harder for me to get through the season. I had to do a lot to my body to get through it. For me it was more of a decision that long term I would like to be healthy and be able to get out of bed when I'm fifty. And Tara (VanDerveer) completely understood. She told me that they cared about me as a person, they wanted me to make sure that I was ok, and that I should take care of my health first and try to get back for the season after I was healthy."

Are there any games she particularly wants to be able to play? The Baylor game in November would be close to her Texas home.

"I would love to play at Baylor, especially because the last time I played anywhere near my home was in San Antonio my freshman year, which was amazing. I remember Tara said, ‘Yeah, Texas Tech! That's your home game!' And I was like, ‘It's an eight-hour drive, Tara!' So it's nice to be close enough that I can get some friends and family out, especially for senior year. It would be great to play in front of them. But honestly for me, it would probably be Tennessee. We owe them a good game. It would be nice to be out there to compete with them for another year."

Clyburn has a tough Engineering major. Is she on pace to graduate this spring?

"I should be done with all of my Engineering requirements at the end of Winter Quarter and then Spring Quarter I have a couple of General Education requirements to get finished. That's basically because I took summer school. With the major I have, Biomedical Engineering, I couldn't really take the same course load as the average Engineering major during the season. I took three years of summer school and because of that this quarter I only have to take twelve units. They're still hard classes, don't get me wrong, but it's not like I'm overloaded, completely stressed trying to graduate on time."

What tricks has she learned to balance such a heavy academic load with basketball?

"Well, I learned a couple of things. First there was a lot that I didn't know freshman year. I think freshman year we started out Fall Quarter having late practice. It switches off every year. (Since both the men's team and the women's team generally practice at Maples, the teams alternate practice time slots. Practice could be early afternoon or late afternoon, and the pattern switches by quarter.) I'm like, ok, I'm going to hang out with my friends during the day, do this, this, and this, and do all my homework at night. Then you go to practice and you come home, especially freshman year when you're mentally exhausted and physically tired, and homework just doesn't want to get done then. I learned to leave my evenings as free as possible and get everything done during the day. Once basketball starts with practice and everything, you really don't want to do a whole lot later."

What sort of help is available for overloaded athletes?

"A lot of time management skills training helped and also help from the staff we have here in the Athletic Academic Resource Center. We have counselors there that can help. A lot of it is help knowing what classes that I can take what quarters, what two classes not to take together and things like that. With a major like mine if I had taken Thermodynamics and Fluid Engineering at the same time, it probably wouldn't have been a good thing. It's one of those things where I had to learn. And then I don't want to take a really tough course load in the winter and everything like that. So learning how to balance it all was definitely important for me. After four years hopefully I've figured it out."

Fluid engineering? The last fluid engineering problem we had was spilled beer. We decided to temporarily decrease the entropy of our kitchen universe by reducing the molecular disorder with a mop. What is Clyburn's favorite thing about Stanford, not related to basketball?

"Probably the coolest thing to me is that there are so many unique and amazing people but sometimes you would never guess it. And the reason why I think this is just so cool is that at some schools being an athlete you walk around and kind of be the big thing on campus, but the thing that you have to realize here is that while we excel on the basketball court and are pretty well known, there are people in pretty much every field you can think of walking around campus that are the same way in those particular fields. I remember my sophomore year maybe, when I was hanging out with one of my friends, and this was a friend that I'd known since freshman year. We were in her room and I said, ‘What's this space ship thing you have going on here?' She said she won a competition for NASA and she had some experiments going on a satellite. And that's just kind of when it hit me. This was a girl that I had known forever, who was in sororities, really outgoing, loved everybody, the opposite of a nerd, and this is someone that's just so amazing in that particular field. It's really neat to meet these types of people that I think in most other universities you probably wouldn't have the same type of opportunities to meet. I think that those are connections that will still be there years down the road. I think that they've made me a better person along the way as well."

Does Clyburn have plans for after graduation?

"Semi. I would like to Co-Term in Mechanical Engineering so I'm in the process of applying for that now. We have a Co-Terminal Masters program here at Stanford. It's geared for undergraduate students that are interested in receiving a Masters from Stanford as well. You can get a Masters Degree in one year because you've already taken a lot of the similar Stanford courses. If I were to go and take a Masters Degree somewhere else it's usually two years because you never know what has overlapped and what hasn't. The application is due at the end of this quarter so we'll see. I know what I'd love to do in life is cardiac device design. I've been doing research over at Stanford Hospital on a couple of devices that they have in progress right now. So I hope to do a Masters then get into that field."

Bedazzled by the idea of Clyburn someday designing our future artificial heart, we sidetracked and trotted out the "What is one thing that nobody knows about you?" question, but senior Clyburn was an old hand at that quizzical variety.

"The funny thing is I answer these questions for four years and I keep trying to think up a new thing that people don't know… I have to come up with some weird fetish. I started guitar last year. When I was on crutches for twelve weeks, walking boots for another twenty or so, I was not really able to do as much so I wanted to get a hobby that would keep me entertained and challenge me, something new and different, so I picked up the acoustic guitar."

That is definitely not as good as a weird fetish, but now the team, which already boasts a few pianists, may be one step closer to a record contract. Like many athletes, Morgan Clyburn has faced physical challenges that have probably hindered her from maximizing her potential on the basketball court. Nonetheless she has continued to improve as a player and contribute ever more each year. In Part II of this interview she further discusses her basketball past and future and provides a few insights into the upcoming season.

To view a slide show of Don Anderson's photos taken during this interview with Morgan Clyburn, click HERE.

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