Clemmons blames himself for disappointing year
Iowa sophomore guard barely played against Big Ten competition after strong freshman year
IOWA CITY — Like most of his teammates, Anthony Clemmons sat in the locker room dejected in the moments that followed Iowa's season-ending loss to Tennessee in an NCAA tournament first-round game last week.
But the sophomore Iowa point guard had more depth to his disappointment. In a season where Clemmons hoped to elevate his level of play, it declined. After a freshman year where he started 13 games and averaged 16 minutes, Clemmons played in 31 with no starts and averaged less than 12 minutes as a sophomore. Against Tennessee he scored two points in four minutes.
Clemmons didn't point fingers at the coaching staff for his drop in minutes. Instead, he put his bench time on himself.
"From my standpoint, yes," Clemmons said when asked if it was a disappointing year. "But I blame myself for that, just from not working and putting in the extra time that I usually do, that I did before I got here. I blame myself.
"I think what separated me from last year to this year is I forced (Coach Fran) McCaffery to play me. This year, he had no choice but to sit me. I wasn’t contributing like I should. I didn’t bring the effort like I should have. It was a different me. I went through a stretch where I was non-resistant. I blame myself for that and on to the offseason."
Clemmons stands 6-foot-1, weighs 195 pounds and brings plenty of attributes Iowa could have used this year. He was perhaps Iowa's best on-ball defender, a trait sorely lacking late in the season. He's a skilled passer and had 54 assists to 28 turnovers. He's a decent outside shooter, hitting 37.5 percent of his 3-point attempts and sinking more than 50 percent of his shots (24 of 47).
Those numbers are way down from his freshman season. Along with his 13 starts, he took 146 shots and knocked down 17 3-pointers. He added 105 assists to 63 turnovers.
Throughout non-conference play, Clemmons earned double-digit minutes in every game. He played 29 minutes and had seven assists with two turnovers in an overtime win against Xavier. Two days later against Villanova, Clemmons played 25 minutes with three assists and two turnovers in an overtime defeat.
But his minutes waned starting with the Hawkeyes' second Big Ten game, based primarily on his own inconsistency. Over the team's final 19 games, only three times did he play double-digit minutes with a high of 13 at Illinois on Feb. 1. Against Big Ten competition, Clemmons attempted just 13 shots with only four baskets. He had 14 assists and 13 turnovers against Big Ten foes. He played just one minute against Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament and averaged just 6.8 minutes against Big Ten opponents.
Spanning the final 10 games, Clemmons produced his best performance at Minnesota. He played eight minutes and grabbed four rebounds in the second half.
“He was great. Man he was great," McCaffery said afterward. "Obviously I didn’t play him in the first half. I wasn’t sure. I gave him a shot, and I’m really proud of him. He showed me he really wants to play more.”
With his statistics and drop-off in minutes, speculation has swirled that Clemmons could transfer from the program. He and starting point guard Mike Gesell will be juniors next year. Incoming sophomore Trey Dickerson also plays point guard. Iowa returns shooting guards Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok as well as incoming freshman Brady Ellingson. It's a crowded backcourt.
Clemmons, a Lansing, Mich. native, declined to answer the transfer question directly. He instead turned the focus back on himself and what he needs to do to play again.
"I’m just going to keep working," Clemmons said. "I’m going to get back to doing me and see how things play out. I got away from the work ethic that I had before, and I wasn’t in shape like I was coming in. I didn’t come into this season ready like I should have been, confident like I should have been. The offseason is where I get back to me."