COLUMN: Clifford Stays Centered In Trying Season
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 16:02
Although he’s been inching closer to more playing time lately, it’s been difficult for Clifford to be effective for long stretches. He’s averaged around two points per game since conference play began.
“It’s really hard to get ready for the games and stay comfortable and have coach Donahue comfortable with me in the game when I’m not practicing,” Clifford said.
Against Wake Forest last week, Clifford hopped on a stationary bike when he was taken off the floor. He was hesistant to embrace the idea from the trainer at first, but he wasn’t going to ignore anything that could help him sub in and out more easily.
“I thought I was going to get really tired and I was going to look stupid, but I think it worked,” Clifford said. “I’m open to do whatever.”
While he deals with the injury, he’s found support from the other players, especially Ryan Anderson and Lonnie Jackson.
“My teammates are always picking me up,” Clifford says. “I think Lonnie and Ryan have done a great job, not only with me and themselves, but also fulfilling the leadership role that the team needs right now and I think that has been very reassuring for me.”
And that’s when Clifford starts to light up. He’s solemn when talking about his injury, but any discussion about his teammates makes him smile and laugh. It shows why he was selected as a captain in the first place, the joy he gets out of everyone else’s success.
BC’s freshman guards, Rahon and Oliver Hanlan, have taken over the BC backcourt and Clifford has been incredbly proud of the duo.
“I tell them every day, they’re a really special type of people, and not just from the athletic standpoint. At the end of the game they’re confident enough to be like, ‘Hey, give me the ball. I’m the point guard. It should be in my hands. I’ll get you the ball when you’re open,’” Clifford said before stopping and shaking his head in appreciation.
He calls Rahon’s late free throws against Wake Forest that sealed a BC win “the most legendary thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“And that’s the captain looking at a freshman do something like that,” Clifford says.
And then there’s Eddie Odio.
“Me, Ryan, and Lonnie have been telling everybody that’s going to happen sooner or later,” Clifford said of Odio’s breakout season. “He’s going to be the quiet kid his whole career but he’s probably going to make the top plays a dozen more times. But he’s not going to say a word about it.
“He gets emotional during the games, but I don’t think he shows it as much as the next guy. Me and Ryan might have been more excited than him,” Clifford said with a laugh of Odio’s SportsCenter highlights.
He’s been held back from filling statsheets, but Clifford doesn’t focus on how that might affect a future professional career.
“I don’t know if I need to block it out, I just haven’t given it that much thought,” Clifford said. “I look at the offseason as a time when I can establish my chances of a career. In season, all that has troubled me is the fact that I can’t be on the court helping my guys out and being the leader that I should be.”
And that’s what stands out the most about Clifford. Rather than use the knee injury as an excuse, he actually blames himself for not being a good enough leader in spite of the setbacks. It’s easy to see that anything short of winning is a failure for the center, and a failure he places on himself. It’s also a failure he uses to push himself to work harder, fight through the pain, and get better, and that’s all anyone around him could ask.