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NORTH LIBERTY — Anthony Clemmons needed to recharge as a basketball player and a person. For the Iowa junior point guard, there was no better place to do so than during an extended trip back home to Lansing, Mich.
For more than a month Clemmons worked out with best friends and former high school teammates Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes, both members of the Michigan State basketball team. He also competed with and against former Spartans stars Draymond Green, Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton. Those tough-minded players help sharpen Clemmons’ focus and channel his ambition. He came back to Iowa determined and visibly thinner after changing his diet and adding muscle.
“I felt me going back home and getting knowledge from NBA players and working out with NBA players ... I feel like that’s a blessing,” Clemmons said Thursday. “A lot of people don’t get that. When you see people trying to get somewhere, it only makes you want to get there, too.”
Last season was a disappointment for Clemmons. After starting 13 games as a freshman, Clemmons had no starts as a sophomore and saw his playing time trimmed in Big Ten play. He never logged more than eight minutes in a game after Feb. 1, and he played more than four minutes just three times over Iowa’s final 10 games.
That drop in minutes stemmed as much from his lack of off-season commitment as his on-court performance. He admits he didn’t prepare properly entering last season, something he vows won’t happen this year.
“I was satisfied with what was given to me,” he said. “I had a lot in the papers, I had girls coming up to me. Everybody knew me. A lot of it was fame, and the fame took over. That hurt me. It took away my dedication.”
Clemmons remains a solid teammate and hardly fits a me-first persona. He believes he’s the best player at his position, but that’s how all players feel. He averaged 16.8 minutes a game as a rookie, then nearly 17 over his first 14 games as a sophomore. But his playing time fizzled as did his statistics. He averaged 4.3 minutes and 1.1 points over the final 10 games. He totaled five assists over that span.
Earlier in the season against Xavier, Clemmons played 29 minutes and dished seven assists. Against Iowa State as a freshman, Clemmons scored 14 points and had eight assists.
Those numbers lead to Clemmons’ off-season intensity. He’s hungry to prove his value every chance he can.
“No disrespect toward anybody, but I don’t want to share my minutes,” he said. “That’s just me now. I want to tune out everything. I don’t want to share anything.
“It’s not being stingy or it’s not being greedy, but I want the best for my team and I feel like I can lead this team.”
Despite the drop in playing time, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery remains confident in Clemmons. When asked how his starting lineup will fill out next year, McCaffery immediately mentioned Clemmons.
“Anthony Clemmons, remember, was a starter for (13) games his freshman year, and we’ve got to give everybody an even shot coming into this thing,” McCaffery said.
Along with fellow junior Mike Gesell, Clemmons has competition for playing time with incoming sophomore point guard Trey Dickerson, a junior-college transfer. Both stand 6-foot-1 and are quick, explosive players. But Clemmons isn’t willing to concede anything to anyone.
“Everybody said since Dev (Marble) left, the expectations are so much higher for Trey because he’s that newcomer,” Clemmons said. “He’s that guy that can come off the dribble; I can take stuff off the dribble, too. I feel like it’s not fair to that player to put (those) expectations on him. That’s how I feel about the whole situation. It’s whole another league when you come to the Big Ten. It’s a wide awakening. You can’t do a lot of stuff that you did in high school or in juco or stuff like that.
“It’s not like Trey’s going to come out here and replace what Dev did. It’s all bits and pieces. I love Trey’s game. No disrespect toward him; that’s my man. But I feel the expectations are a little bit too high for him, and that puts a lot of pressure on him. I’m here to help him to become a better player than what he was, what he can be. I’m just giving him knowledge and get better myself.”
With the drop in minutes, an incumbent starter at point guard in Gesell and a newcomer in Dickerson, many might question why Clemmons would want to stay at Iowa. Clemmons, however, wants to prove once again that he belongs at Iowa.
“Why leave?” he said. “I’m here. I’ve proved what I can do.”
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