Cliff Clinkscales - His Time to Shine
He was to be the next phenom from NYC, making it on the Rosie O'Donnell show, as well as the Oprah Winfrey Show. But along the way, the hype for Cliff Clinkscales lessened and another NYC prep guard, named Sebastian Telfair, got the phenom title. However, after a strong freshman performance, Clinkscales may see a return of the attention that began as a fifth grader.
The attention began in 1996 when family friend Clarence Washington brought Clinkscales to Teaneck, New Jersey. At the ABCD Camp, Cliffy put on a dribbling display between games. Coaches and players took notice, and soon followed letters from some of the top college programs in the nation. In addition to the Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey Show, SLAM Magazine wrote up the Queens borough sensation. It seemed like success on the next level was guaranteed for Cliffy. However, the phenom was not growing taller, and his choice in friends was questionable. When he arrived at Springfield Gardens High School, he had nearly become a forgotten player. Because of grades, New York City never got to see it's former phenom play a minute of high school basketball. It seemed like Cliff Clinkscales was going to be another "what could have been" story. But those around him let Cliff know that if he wanted to make something of his God-given talent, he would need to get his grades in order, and start hitting the books. So Cliff was sent to the central part of Florida, to attend Shores Christian Academy.
Cliff left the only place he ever knew, and headed to Ocala Florida, a town of 45,943 people. This was culture shock for the youngster from the streets of NYC. He was taking in by Stephen Davidson, the pastor and administrator of the school, and his wife Nancy, an office administrator at Shores Christian Academy. Cliff would still return home to New York City during the breaks, but he really took a liking to Florida. His game began to develop, and it did not hurt that he hit a growth spurt not long after he began attending Shores Christian Academy. However, being in Ocala did have its' negatives. It seemed like no matter how well Clinkscales played, the national recognition never came. It seemed like he was destined to never get back on the national scene. Then a great opportunity showed itself to Cliff. The Atlanta Celtics, one of the top AAU programs in the nation, was looking for a point guard. The Celtics were loaded, with Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, and Randolph Morris on the squad, but they were lacking at the point guard position. Atlanta Celtics meet Cliff Clinkscales. The Atlanta Celtics had a stellar AAU season, winning the Adidas Big Time Tournament, and coaches began to remember the name "Cliff Clinkscales."
In Cliff's final prep season, Shores Christian Academy went 36-6, where Clinkscales averaged 21 points and 12 assists. However, he still had not achieved the test scores, and his top school, Florida State, was unwilling to commit a scholarship to a non-qualified player, and went in another direction. However, when he achieved a qualifying score, other schools became interested in him. Some of the schools that wanted Clinkscales on their team was Cincinnati, Maryland, Baylor, Louisville, St. John's and Florida. However, when former DePaul coach Dave Leitao showed up, it got the attention of Clinkscales. DePaul, with its urban environment and it's pending entry into the Big East sold Cliff and on May 7th, 2004, DePaul had the phenom.
Though Lindy's College Basketball Annual listed Cliff as the best incoming playmaker/passer in Conference USA, high expectations were not expected. Early on in the season, it became quite obvious that DePaul had landed a gem. Clinkscales became a favorite of DePaul fans, as they began to dub him "The Colonel." In his second collegiate game, Clinkscales led the Blue Demons with 5 assists in nineteen minutes. However, it was versus inner city rival U.I.C. where the introduction of Cliff Clinkscales to collegiate basketball took off. With senior Drake Diener out with an ankle injury, Clinkscales got his first start in college basketball and he did not disappoint. Clinkscales finished with 7 points on 3 of 7 shooting, but his mastery with the ball and passing was apparent, as he ended with 13 assists and 1 turnover. He also led the Blue Demons with 3 steals in the game. However, Dave Leitao did not secure a place for Cliff in the starting lineup, a move that some questioned. His only other start was versus Old Dominion, when Sammy Mejia was on leave from the team. Although he averaged only 15 minutes per game, Clinkscales led the Blue Demons in assists on the year with 104, an average of 3.36 per game. He also had an extremely impressive assist to turnover ratio of 2.31 a/to. Perhaps the most impressive stat about Clinkscales is the stat that appears off the court. The former academic question mark finished his freshman year with a grade point average above 3.0.
During this off-season, Clinkscales has been working on developing a little more strength and has been working on improving his shot. Could Cliff "The Colonel" Clinkscales explode in his sophomore season, much like Connecticut's Marcus Williams did last year? With all the struggles and adversity he has overcome, it is safe to say that Clinkscales will give it his all to make it happen.