Going from MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League and scoring 20.7 points per game in high school to playing in 20 games and 65 minutes in college can’t be easy.
That was sophomore guard Chris Clover’s reality last year for the Hawks.
“You’ve got to think a lot quicker and it’s very different from high school,” Clover said. “In high school, I was the best player on the team. So, you’ve got to come to a team where you’re not the best player. You have to work your way up and gain the coaches’ trust.”
But it wasn’t a shock to Clover that he would have to work hard to gain playing time.
“My dad is really vocal and is always in my ear saying, ‘You’ve got to work hard’,” Clover said. “It wasn’t a shock because I knew what I was coming into. I think I was prepared but I didn’t get as much time as I expected, because I was behind DeAndre' Bembry and Aaron Brown, those type of players.”
Even though the minutes were fewer than what Clover wanted, he still learned what it takes to win in college.
The number one thing Clover learned is to be a great teammate and playing defense. Clover said he would watch Bembry and Brown, who were both good defenders.
“I learned from watching them because defense is the key to winning championships,” Clover said. “Coming in as a freshman and being on a team that won an Atlantic 10 Championship was really great for me and my résumé.”
So, after last season, Clover has been hard at work on his shooting and defense. Being faster not just physically but mentally as well is a task the sophomore guard has worked at since last season.
“I think I’ve been getting better every day,” Clover said. “DeAndre and Aaron were just so athletic and shifty. That’s why I also worked on trying to get quicker...being more vocal, trying to become a leader, and trying to gain the coaches’ trust.”
Last year, his teammates helped him get through practices. He feels it is only right for him to help the incoming freshmen stay positive.
A big part of what Clover also wants to show is the toughness of Philadelphia basketball. Clover played under Speedy Morris at Saint Joseph's Prep and for the Philly Pride AAU team. While playing for Philly Pride, they would constantly preach what Philadelphia basketball is known for.
And if the team wasn’t playing up to par they would say, “this is not how Philly Pride plays; this is not how Philly teams play.” And for Clover, that’s all he needed to hear to get going.
“That would just get us hyped and we would be dogs,” Clover said. “We would do everything we could to win. Philly has a style of being tough and that’s what I want to show on the court. I don’t want to be laid back this year, just go out and grind.”
When Clover was being recruited his junior year, he suffered an injury, which slowed down the recruiting process for him.
“I couldn’t play and show my talent so the recruiting kind of died down,” Clover said.
Mostly Philly schools kept up, so he embraced it; his top schools were all near Philadelphia. He looked at Temple, Villanova, La Salle, and SJU.
“St. Joe’s stuck out to me because of Phil [Martelli],” Clover said. “Coach was straight and honest with me. He didn’t tell me, ‘Chris, you’re going to play right away.’ He told me I’ve got to work for it. I just connected with Phil more and that’s always a good thing when players and coaches have a connection.”
Clover has an interesting take on his favorite moment from last season. Instead of saying the A-10 Championship was his favorite, he said it was winning the first NCAA tournament game against ninth-seed Cincinnati.
“Winning the first game in the tournament in my eyes was bigger than winning an A-10 Championship,” Clover said. “It was just something you always dreamed about as a kid.”
The chip on his shoulder from not playing much last year is motivating for Clover. And how can it not be, going from recording 1,248 points, 405 rebounds and 117 assists in high school to averaging 0.5 points per game in college?
The player Clover wants to be right now is the guy that can consistently make open shots and play defense. As the year goes on, he hopes to keep adding things to his game.
“Coach Martelli and I talked before coming into this year,” Clover said. “He has goals set for me and I have goals set for myself. I just want to show him I won’t let him down.”