CU alumnus Darius Clement relives his youth at 2016 national tourney

CU alumnus Darius Clement relives his youth at 2016 national tourney

March 21, 2016
For Immediate Release


Darius Clement during his final season playing as a Campbellsville University Tiger, before taking up a  coaching position. Photo credit: Mid-South Conference

 

By Jordan Alves, sports information director

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eight years ago, Campbellsville University’s men’s basketball made a deep run in the NAIA National Tournament, reaching the Fab Four for the first time in school history. This year, the Tigers have rewritten the same sheet music and are playing a very similar tune.

The Tigers have pulled a few upsets, turned a few heads and are now one of only two men’s basketball teams from Kentucky left playing in the postseason … with both coming at the NAIA level (Georgetown College).
There have only been a handful of people around since that last Fab Four run: head coach Keith Adkins was in his eighth year at the helm and assistant Bryan Milburn was in his seventh year; head athletic trainer Derek Port, who covers the Tigers, was also in his seventh year during that 2008 season.

Outside of the coaches and medical staff, there were two young men who were also around: Justin Watson, who was a student-assistant, and Darius Clement. Clement’s story is a little different. He was a freshman at Bowling Green High School during that time. The connection between Darius and the 2008 CU team is that his brother, Shawn Savage, was a freshman point guard for the Tigers.

 
Darius Clement coaching during the NAIA National
Championship Tournament. (CU Photo by Richard
RoBards)


During that 2008 run, Darius was on spring break and instead of spending it with friends on the beach in Florida, he decided to spend it in downtown Kansas City, witnessing the same tournament he would play in two times during his career.

It all started when Darius and Shawn’s father, David, would come to every game – home or away. Over the past nine years, the Clement family has witnessed over 350 games. David, or better known as “DC” around campus and in Bowling Green, is an insurance agent at State Farm and, he says, watching his sons play basketball has been a blessing in more ways than one.

During that 2008 year, the Tigers upset Concordia University in the first round, upended McKendree University in the round of 16 and ran past Oklahoma Baptist in the quarterfinal. But that first round game is the one that stands out in Darius’ mind.

“My favorite game of all time when Shawn played was the first round game in 2008 against Concordia,” Clement said. “That game was a major upset in the bracket and set the tone for the rest of the tournament … I feel like that is exactly what has happened this year.”

If that tune doesn’t sound familiar, then it must have fallen on deaf ears. If you look back to last week’s first round contest, the 23rd-ranked Tigers pulled an upset over No. 10 Texas Wesleyan, 91-88.

Darius was a four-year letter winner for the Tigers during his career (2011-2015). He scored 724 points and hit 118 3-point baskets. Shawn is one of 29 members of the 1,000 Point Club and drained 257 triples. Savage hit a season-best 108 3s in 2010-11 but was jumped by CU freshman Hagen Tyler this year, who now sits at No. 2 on the list for single-season 3s with 110. And who has been the mentor and shooting coach for Tyler this season? You guessed it, coach Darius Clement.

The two spend hours crafting the long-range skill in the Powell Athletic Center gym with the most memorable moments being after practice. Clement will put Tyler through the rigors or shooting drills, having to hit five 3-pointers from all five positions around the court (corner, wing, top of the key, wing corner). Then after that, Tyler will step back a few feet and do it all over again.

“Coaching has been a lot better than actually playing,” said Clement. “Ever since high school, I wanted to be a coach. I wanted to be able to make a difference in player’s lives and that’s what I am able to do on a daily basis. Hagen has a great feel and knowledge of the game and is one of the best shooters I have ever seen … and I may get in trouble with this but he is a better shooter than Shawn was in college.”

During his playing career, Darius had an up-hill climb his senior season. After fracturing a bone in his hand against Pikeville on Feb. 12, 2015, he had to sit out four straight games to end the regular season of his senior year. It did not look like he would be a factor until maybe the national tournament.

But when it came time to shine, Darius stepped up in many ways. Not practicing in over three weeks, Coach Adkins inserted Darius into the first round of the Mid-South Conference tournament against St. Catharine.

“I hadn’t practiced or even really shot the ball for three weeks,” said Clement. “I was told that I wasn’t going to play unless it was an emergency. I couldn’t even shoot at practice that morning… But I guess Coach A (Adkins) thought it was an emergency in the first half because he put me in. I turned the ball over the first time I touched it and I think that was the only time he has never yelled at me for a turnover. I had a good excuse for this time though.”

But the nerves calmed down and the 3-point stroke came back. On the second possession, Clement banged a 3 and sparked the Tigers to a first-round win. After only hitting one 3 against Georgetown in the MSC semifinal, Clement nailed two big triples in the tournament final against University of the Cumberlands to help CU win its first title since 2006.

Guess who was behind the Tigers bench during that championship? You got it, David “DC” Clement.

“Having my dad support me and Shawn the way he does means the world,” said Darius. “His dad only saw a few of his football games and his brother Stanley was the one who supported him the most. My dad is showing Shawn and I the love that his dad wasn’t able to show. But not only is he showing me and Shawn the love and support, but he is a Tiger through and through. He loves CU basketball and is one of the biggest fans.”

Like in 2008, the Tigers are now playing another team from the state of Oklahoma in the semifinal. CU and Mid-America Christian tip tonight at 7 p.m. ET in the historical Municipal Auditorium.

And you can bet that DC will be sitting in his trademark spot behind the bench heckling the officials. Go Tigers!

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,500 students offering over 80 programs of study including 24 master’s degrees, seven postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.

 

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