Rewind to three years ago, when it looked like it might be all over for Denis Clemente. After two suspensions for violations of team rules, including one beginning midseason that lasted until year’s end, Miami Hurricanes head coach Frank Haith dismissed the talented sophomore point guard from his squad. Faced with a mandatory transfer redshirt year, Clemente made the move to Manhattan, Kansas to rejuvenate his career as a Wildcat. Now, with two All-Big 12 selections and one prestigious All-American award to his name, one thing is clear: a lot can change in three years.
It wasn’t just an attitude shift that led to newfound success for Clemente. The 24-year-old’s game has always revolved around speed, so much so that head coach Frank Martin, in an October 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated, called his new point guard, “the fastest person I’ve ever seen with a ball in his hands.” During his one-year hiatus, however, Clemente focused on building the strength to match his speed. And during that off year, he added much of the muscle that bulked him up from a meager 150 pounds to his current weight of 180.
Although the team endured a disappointing season, Clemente’s first go-round in the Big 12 was a rousing success. Sporting the #21 jersey in honor of his late second cousin, baseball legend Roberto Clemente, the newest Wildcat averaged 15 points, teaming up with Jacob Pullen to form a lethal backcourt. After dropping 44 points at Texas and 33 at Missouri, it was clear that Clemente had found a system that allowed him to flourish. The team was bounced from the NIT after a second round loss to San Diego State, but Clemente’s impact on the league was clear: the Puerto Rican native was named Big-12 Newcomer of the Year and garnered second-team All-Big 12 honors.
As difficult as it would be to top his decorated first year in the Big 12, his second and final season at Bramlage Coliseum managed to do just that – and then some. Clemente registered less than double digits only three times, recording ten or more points in 34 games en route to a 16.6 season average. The star point guard led his team to the Big 12 Tournament Final, finishing with 17 points in a loss to #1 Kansas. When the Wildcats were given a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament, it was Clemente’s time to shine. He dazzled fans all tourney long, posting 19 points in a second-round win against BYU and a crucial 25 points in a double-OT win against Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen. When the Wildcats lost to the National Champion-runners up Butler Bulldogs in the Elite Eight, Clemente’s dominating run had finally come to an end. He became the sixth player in Kansas State history to record over 1,000 points in just a two-year span, earning a fourth-team All-American award at year’s end.
Now, Denis Clemente is focused on the next step in his basketball career – the NBA Draft. Although he has been downplayed by many for his average size (6-1) and criticized for his trigger finger, Clemente has managed to find success. On June 24th, Clemente’s name won’t be called in the first round, and it might not even be called in the second. Despite the question marks surrounding his potential selection, Denis Clemente has overcome the skeptics in the past. There’s no reason to think he won’t do it again.
What do you think? Where will Clemente be drafted?
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