Basketball’s Clemmons proving worth off bench

BY TOM CLOS | NOVEMBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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Freshmen center Adam Woodbury and guard Mike Gesell received the majority of attention that surrounded the Iowa men’s basketball team’s 2012 recruiting class, and for good reason.

Both blue-chip talents have stepped into starting roles immediately, and the tandem seems poised to eventually lead the recently maligned program back to greener pastures.

But lost in the summer shuffle was another incoming rookie looking to make a name for himself.

He’s an under-the-radar guard from East Lansing, Mich., whose performance off the bench may turn out to be as vital as any of the five starters Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery pencils in this season.

Introducing: freshman Anthony Clemmons.

The 6-1 backup was listed as a three-star recruit coming out of high school, according to Rivals.com, and his lone offer from a school in a major conference — typically considered conference’s receiving an automatic BCS bowl bid — was from the Black and Gold.

But now, judging by the guard’s second-half performance in the Hawkeyes 73-61 victory over Central Michigan on Monday, one must wonder if Iowa’s head coach knew something about Clemmons most recruiters didn’t.

“Very rarely when one point guard commits, another point guard comes. It just doesn’t happen,” McCaffery said. “But [Mike and Anthony] both can shoot and defend so I could legitimately tell them I would play them both together at different times. I have and I will.”

Clemmons’ 9-point, 4-assist performance against the Chippewas didn’t look so special on paper. But it was his work on the opposite end of the court that has most of those surrounding the program buzzing.

“[Anthony] is probably one of the better defenders on the team,” junior guard Devyn Marble said. “He plays with no fear.”

Clemmons felt his shooting had always been an underrated aspect of his game but admitted to being a point guard who would prefer to pass first and shoot only if he’s open.

“I just try to not take bad shots and come into games looking be the leader on defense,” Clemmons said. “I want to take the best defender, their leading scorer, out of his game.”

What initially seemed like a no-brainer for Clemmons to join the Hawkeyes last year had to look a lot different when Gesell announced his commitment to play the same position in August 2011. Yet, Clemmons didn’t waver in his commitment.

He said he never harbored any resentment towards his teammate, and instead saw the situation as an opportunity to connect with one of the nation’s premier first-year players.

“I’m just a competitor. I want to come in and make myself known, and [Mike being recruited] was nothing,” Clemmons said. “I’m really comfortable being where I’m at, there are no hard feelings. We’re all friends.”

The pair of freshman guards may get another crack at playing together when Iowa (2-0) hosts Howard in its preliminary-round contest of the Cancún Challenge in Carver-Hawkeye Arena tonight.

The Bison (0-1) started 2012 on the wrong end of a 68-62 decision to Lincoln University in their season-opener on Nov. 10. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference squad is looking to bounce back from a 10-21 record and ninth-place league finish last season. History, though, isn’t on their side: The Hawkeyes are 10-0 lifetime against Mid-Eastern schools.

Clemmons wasn’t familiar with his squad’s mid-major opponents but knows the increased burden he’ll assume if Howard attempts to attack the Black and Gold with a small lineup as Central Michigan did.

“I don’t know what style Howard exactly is going to play, but if I see all guards I know I’m going to have to be ready,” Clemmons said.

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