There is no doubt about it, Chris Clemons is a bucket. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has previously seen the guard prospect. He stepped foot onto Campbell University’s campus dropping missiles and never looked back. Somehow he has fallen beneath the NBA Draft radar, even though the numbers he’s been putting up puts him in rarified categories, among some of the NBA’s top talent.
Making His Name Early
Clemons’ rise was relatively normal to begin. Early in life, he was always thought of as Carlee’s little brother, the key word being little. Chris’ older brother Carlee was a year older and an established veteran at Millbrook High School.
You see, however, bring Carlee’s “little brother” isn’t a bad thing. Carlee Clemons signed with Lincoln Memorial out of high school. He was one of the Top 15 scorers in Millbrook High School History and the 6-foot-1 guard was known for his leaping ability, having made numerous appearance on Sports Center Top 10 for his incredible dunks. In Carlee’s three years as a varsity starter he was part of 8 state playoff wins.
Chris’s junior season, which was Carlee’s senior year, Chris started to break out of his shell. As a sophomore on the varsity team, Carlee led the team in scoring, averaging 12 per game. Chris averaged 5 points per game that season. As a junior, the light switched on for Chris as he jumped to 14 points per game and shared conference Player of the Year honors with 2018 NBA Lottery pick Jerome Robinson.
Breaking into His Own
During Clemons’ junior season his team finished 24-5, they won the conference title and made it all the way to the North Carolina State 4A Final Four. Clemons found his swagger, and he carried that into his final season of AAU. Playing with Wake County Basketball Association (WCBA). The July between his junior and senior seasons was when everything went right for him. In one tournament he played against Thon Maker (another NBA lottery pick), and as he went for over 25 points, it was a step-back three with time running down to put his team up that opened many people’s eyes.
At that point, Campbell had already offered. After that performance his only other two offers came, UNC-Greensboro and Gardner Webb. His size scared off colleges, but his numbers spoke volumes as he went on that summer to average close to 30 points and put up unbelievable numbers both in stats and wins. Clemons visited Gardner Webb and Campbell and he chose Campbell while on his official visit to Buies Creek. Campbell had two or three coaches at every one of his games throughout July.
Somehow, there was more in store, and Clemons went on to have one of the most electric senior seasons we have seen. At Millbrook High School, in Raleigh, North Carolina he averaged 24.1 points per game finishing with 100 three-pointers in the 29 game season. He led his team to a 26-3 record and another appearance in the North Carolina State 4A Final Four. His 699 points that year is the all-time single season record at Millbrook as he won his second consecutive conference Player of the Year award that season.
During this season, the 5-foot-10 Clemons showed off his explosive scoring ability, as well as his 44” vertical. He finished the 29-game season with 34 dunks and scored over 30 points on ten occasions and surpassed 40 points twice that year. In fact, Clemons broke his school’s single game scoring record twice in his senior year as the only player in school history to ever score 40, or more points.
The pinnacle of his senior year, his break through “a-ha moment” in front of many people’s eyes was a 35-point performance against 2017 NBA lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. in Phenom’s Winter Showcase. After that performance, in that setting, at that event, Slam Magazine’s write up on Clemons seems to be common place now, however, at the time, this was the first time a national publication said this, “What Chris Clemons lacks in height, he undoubtedly makes up for in the heart department. Matched up with top-5 junior Dennis Smith Jr., he showed no fear whatsoever. In fact, he went right at the heralded junior en route to scoring 35 points in Millbrook’s decisive win. He shot the lights out from beyond the arc, threw down a number of dunks in transition, and was a threat to score every time that he had the rock. Look for this Campbell steal to lead a Millbrook squad that is expected to compete for the state title in North Carolina.”
He went on that season to continue to score at an incredibly high clip. Later that season Clemons produced the 4th highest scoring total (at the time) in the now John Wall Holiday Invitational (previously sponsored by Glaxo and HSOT). By all accounts it was a spectacular year. And Chris has not slowed down since.
Breaking Records at Campbell
At Campbell University, Clemons scoring output is putting him in rarified categories. He is already the nation’s leading returning scorer at 24.5 points per game. He also holds the nation’s longest current streak of 82 straight games scoring in double figures. Through his first three seasons at Campbell Clemons has 305 made threes and is one of only three current players with more than 300 made threes in less than 100 games played (only nine have done this since 1992-1993 season).
Already, Clemons is Campbell’s All-Time leading scorer, he broke that record on March 14 of his Junior season. In fact, since the 1992-1993 season Clemons is the second leading scorer in NCAA Division 1 through his first three seasons with 2,232 points. He is behind only Steph Curry, who scored 2,635. It is interesting to note here that Curry left Davidson after his third year and was drafted 7th overall in the 2009 NBA draft. He currently sits second on the All-Time Big South scoring list, only 324 points behind Reggie Williams, of VMI, who set the record after playing for four seasons.
In fact, since the 1992-1993 season there have only been two players in NCAA Division 1 that have averaged over 20 points per game while shooting 44% from the field, making over 300 threes and accumulating over 150 steals through their first three seasons combined. Steph Curry joins Clemons again on that list. This all-around stat line, that he shares only with a multiple time NBA MVP, showcases Clemons incredible instincts on the court.
Since the 2010 season, only six players have scored over 24.5 points per game, dished over 3 assists per game, made over 90 threes, and shot over 45% from the field in a single season. Clemons joins, Damian Lillard, Buddy Hield, Doug McDermott, Jimmer Fredette and Jordan Howard. The game just comes easy for him and when you pair that with his stocky and strong 170 pound frame that bench presses 250 pounds and has that aforementioned 44” vertical leap you can see why he can be virtually unstoppable.
When asked about comparisons to Clemons, the answers are all across the board. Some say they remind him of Nate Robinson, because of the incredible explosion. Some suggest Isaiah Thomas because of his ability to score the ball in any way, against anyone. However, Clemons will tell you his favorite player growing up was Allen Iverson. Each of these players are sub 6-foot dynamos who had very successful NBA careers.
Already, Clemons has declared for the NBA draft twice, and gone through the pre-draft process twice. He has worked out for multiple teams, including the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics, after his sophomore year. The advice he gained from this sophomore to junior year he implemented soundly. He heard about being more efficient, he heard about getting a quicker/higher release, he heard about being relentless while defending the ball. Throughout Clemons’ junior year he raised his field goal percentage, assists, and free throw percentage while lowering his turnovers.
Clemons is a sponge for information, already having gone through his second run at NBA pre-draft process. Last week at the CP3 Elite Guard Camp, Clemons was of course invited. This brought together the 20 best college and 20 best high school guards in the country. Clemons was injured, with a broken toe, but he was front and center for the entire camp, with a pen and paper taking notes. Hanging on to every word the NBA coaches, professional trainers and NBA players were saying.
There is no doubt about it, Clemons numbers puts him in rarified company. Throughout his career, he has performed against NBA Draft picks and in college he is putting up numbers equivalent of what current NBA All-Stars did in college. Clemons is coming up on his last season at Campbell. Sure he could have jumped ship, and transferred to a higher level, but his game has continued to evolve and he is setting records. The NBA will be looking closely, and something tells us, Clemons will never disappoint.