‘Let’s finish the story’: Ryan Clements says Tigers have work to do
Published 7:10 am Saturday, February 3, 2024
Ryan Clements wants to finish the story. The fifth-year player has been at Hampden-Sydney College longer than most players on the team. In fact, he predates even head coach Caleb Kimbrough.
“When I committed here, I committed to a school that had no head coach at the time,” Clements said. “I just committed to a program looking for change, a place where I knew I could make an impact.”
He’s seen some dramatic change since those first days. The season before Clements arrived, Hampden-Sydney went 4-19, ending the season on a 17-game losing streak. But what a difference a new coach and new players make. Last season, the group went 22-7, 14-2 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. As of Friday, the team stood at 19-1, 11-1 in the ODAC after beating Virginia Wesleyan 77-54.
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“For me and my classmates, it means a lot to see how far we’ve come,” Clements said. “And it’s because we put in the work. It’s the work you put in every day, just being a close knit team, everybody wants everyone else to succeed.”
And Clements has succeeded across the board. Kimbrough says he has one of the highest basketball IQs on the team, just being able to instinctively play the game and adapt to any situation. As a result, he also fills up the stat sheet on a regular basis, beyond just scoring points. He can rebound, he’s a defensive presence, he dishes out assists and collects steals on a regular basis. The 6’3 ft guard out of Conyers, Georgia credits his dad with helping him develop through the years.
That would be Rickie Clements, who had his own college career at Nicholls State University, down in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Rickie would coach Ryan and his brother throughout their childhood, helping them improve.
‘We saw what it took’
As for Ryan’s own style, the Hampden-Sydney guard says while he’s a fan of Kevin Durant, he patterns his game after another NBA All-Star in Russell Westbrook.
“He can score, rebound, get other teammates involved and lock up on both ends,” Ryan said. “I like to think that describes me too. I try to imitate his game.”
And he’s using those skills to help Hampden-Sydney get over the hump, so to speak. Last year, the team went out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, Ryan wants to finish the story by moving past that second round.
“We saw what it took (last year),” Ryan said. “We saw what we needed to work on. We put in the work and put our mind to building a title contender this season.”
But to do that, Ryan said the team tries not to focus on the future. They’re not thinking about the NCAA Tournament. Or the ODAC championship. Or even their No. 1 in the nation ranking.
“Everybody’s already talking about the postseason and the ODAC,” Ryan said. “We know we need to be present in the moment, not looking too far ahead. We know we need to play it one game at a time and not overlook anyone.”
Once this season is over and it’s time to look at life beyond college, Ryan said he’ll just examine the opportunities available. He would love to play professionally, whatever that looks like, but if not, he’ll use his business and economics degree.
“I’ve been working the last several years with my father,” Ryan said. “He owns an accounting firm in Georgia. I’ve enjoyed doing it. But we’re not there yet. There are still things to finish here.”
Ryan Clements, Tigers move forward
This Saturday’s game against Randolph-Macon may be one of the biggest of the season. Hampden-Sydney stands at No. 1. Randolph-Macon stands at No. 8 in the nation. The game is sold out and just adds another chapter to the already storied rivalry between the two teams.
Clements points out the team has only beaten Macon once in the time he’s been here. Over the last decade, Hampden-Sydney has beat Macon three times, including last season’s 61-52 win on the road at Ashland. To achieve the team’s goals, first they have to handle business at home.
“We’ve still got some work to do,” Clements said. “Let’s finish the story. Let’s get the job done.”