Anthony ‘Sapp’ Clemmons’ wild ride to Iowa City

BY TOM CLOS | DECEMBER 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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At 6-1 and 192 pounds, it would be tough for the average person to confuse freshman point-guard Anthony Clemmons for Warren Sapp.

Inside the Iowa locker-room however, the Hawkeye will forever be linked to the former 330-pound NFL lineman, thanks to a reputation he built as a youngster in football.

“I wore number 99 and played defensive tackle. One day I sacked the quarterback and they started calling me Baby Sapp. I was chubby but quick,” Clemmons said. “But as I got bigger, they couldn’t call me baby anymore so I got stuck with ‘Sapp.’ ”

Clemmons wasn’t sure the nickname would make it to Iowa City. His teammates, primarily junior guard Devyn Marble, made sure it did.

“I’m amazed everybody here still calls me Sapp,” Clemmons said. “That name has come a long way.”

The freshman himself wasn’t always positive he, like his nickname, would ever make the journey west on Interstate 80 — or to any major university.

While in high school as a member of the Michigan Mustangs AAU team, Clemmons drew very little interest from top programs nationally. When head coaches would come to scout games on what was perceived as a talent-rich roster, he was frequently overlooked.

So one day, he decided to make some noise.

“Coach McCaffery was recruiting a guy on my AAU team, and I dunked on somebody,” Clemmons said. “I made my mark that day, and they recruited me from there.”

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery admitted that although the guard put up some solid numbers in high school, averaging 14.7 points, 4.5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game, it took him a while before fully committing to the Lansing, Mich., native.

“I didn’t offer him [a scholarship] myself after the first two or three times I watched him,” McCaffery said. “It was like the fifth or sixth time where I came to appreciate all of the things he does to help your team win games.”

The first two or three games of this season saw Clemmons come off the bench, mostly in relief of fellow freshman guard Mike Gesell.

But junior forward Zach McCabe’s extended struggles led to Clemmons’ jumping into the starting point-guard role prior to the Hawkeyes’ Dec. 1 contest against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Since that night, Iowa is 3-0, and Clemmons is averaging a team-leading 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

His most impressive performance was shutting down Iowa State fifth-year senior Korie Lucious, who went 3-of-13 from the floor against Iowa on Dec. 7.

“Before the season, I set a goal to be in the starting lineup and now that I am, I’ve got to hold on to this opportunity,” Clemmons said. “I can never let up and be comfortable.”

So far he hasn’t. And it seems his presence in the starting lineup will become as permanent as that childhood nickname. After all, it seems to fit the point guard nicely, at least according to the man who kept it alive when Clemmons arrived this summer.

“I really like [Anthony] playing the point; he’s quick, and crafty, and fast,” Marble said. “Just like Warren Sapp.”

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