Friday, Aug 29, 2014
Nature Coast

Sharp-shooter kept Sharks strong

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Carlos Clemente can shoot the basketball.

That thought likely tortured the minds of opposing coaches preparing to take on Nature Coast this season.

The ones that didn't already know; well it surely didn't take them long to find out. That showed when the 6-foot-2 senior guard dropped 30 and 32 points on back-to-back nights of the Nature Christmas Tournament, against unfamiliar foes Lutz-Steinbrenner and Orlando-Jones.

He combined for 12 3-pointers over those two contests, part of the county-high and school-record 82 he knocked down for the season, and the 66 he hit on during his two campaigns with the Sharks after arriving from Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Even his percentages are solid; 47 as a junior and 42 as a senior for a 44 career percentage. He also converted 113-of-134 free throws (84 percent) over those seasons.

"He's the best shooter I've seen," Nature Coast head coach Dave Pisarcik said. "Carlos is definitely there with the best players in Nature Coast history.

"He changes what the defense does. We're an inside-outside type of team. With us attacking the rim and Carlos able to shoot like he does, it just opens things up. Teams always have got to account for Carlos. If you don't account for him, he's going to make you pay."

Clemente was the choice for Hernando Today Player of the Year, a product of his pacing the Sharks in scoring at 16.6 points per game, and helping them earn both a fourth district title and trip to the Elite Eight in five years.

His presence is a major reason why, despite graduating four starters after each of the previous two seasons, Nature Coast was still just a step away from the Final Four.

"Carlos was really key to our district championship and success last year. I knew coming in he was flying under the radar a little bit," Pisarcik said. "This year he just took that role of being a scorer, being a team leader. He's the type of guy who wants the ball, wants to make that big shot. I think that's what made him so valuable to our team."

As a senior, Clemente's numbers improved across the board. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals in 2012-13.

Along with his rise in scoring this season - he ranked third in the county - he also contributed 4.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.7 steals.

With his length and athleticism, the headband-clad Clemente has helped the Sharks maintain a lineup full of size and versatility.

"He's a great all-around athlete," Pisarcik said. "There are no really weak parts in his game. If there was, he's one of those type players who would make a weakness a strength."

The 3-point shot, though, has certainly become his calling card. Employing classic form and a sweet, consistent stroke, Clemente's ability to strike from the outside meant Nature Coast always had a chance to rally back from a deficit.

After the Sharks fell behind 22-7 early in the Class 5A, Region II final at Gainesville-Eastside, Clemente and teammate Rohan Blackwood sparked the comeback.

Midway through the third quarter, Clemente stole the ball at midcourt and went to the hoop for a game-tying layup. He then drilled a 3-pointer, one of his four en route to a game-high 19 points, to put Nature Coast in front.

He drilled another shot from beyond the arc to tie the game with 2:15 to play, though the Sharks would not score again in a hard-fought 48-43 defeat.

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Still, Clemente finished off a fine prep career in his truncated time in a Nature Coast uniform. It took some adjusting to reach that point, on the court and off.

There were cultural and even language barriers to overcome. Last season Clemente had to rely on point guard Vic Davila to translate during postgame interviews, but his English has vastly improved since.

"I never imagined that in such a short time I was going to get accustomed to the culture and the language from here," Clemente said via text message. "At the beginning I felt very bored because in Puerto Rico I was always with my friends and here I knew no one, and I was always at home with nothing to do and I felt weird. But then I got used to being here in Florida and it got better.

"I feel great and appreciative with God for obtaining Player of the Year. It's been two years and I did not imagine winning this title, but I always work and will continue to work very hard so I can be a better player, so that my parents and my family can feel very proud of me, and for me to be able to reach where I want to be.

"The glory and honor is God's. I am the player that I am today because of Him and I know in a short time I will continue to receive more honors like this."

Once again, the Sharks will graduate four starters in the coming months, including Clemente. He is now looking to move forward, even as he reflects back.

"I knew I would have more opportunity here in Florida than in P.R. (Puerto Rico), more opportunity as a student-athlete and as a person; having a degree in business administration, playing college basketball and with the help of God to play in the NBA," Clemente said. "NCT is a blessing for me because I always got the help I needed in the language, classes and basketball.

"I learned a lot. I think it was a blessing to study and play basketball at Nature Coast."

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

By the numbers: Carlos Clemente

YR GP FG 3PT FTA FTM PCT TP PPG

Jr 28 126 66 25 20 80% 338 12.1

Sr 32 178 82 109 93 85% 531 16.6

Totals 60 304 148 134 113 84% 869 14.5

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