Three years ago, Chris Clover was on his way to being named Most Valuable Player of the Philadelphia Catholic League. He averaged 20.7 points per game in his senior year at St. Joseph’s Prep, helping the team to an 18-5 record.
Clover’s first collegiate season was much different: 10 points in 65 minutes.
While he wasn’t pleased with how his freshman season played out, Clover wasn’t angry. He was motivated, and with the guidance of his mother, father, and grandfather, he knew exactly what he needed to focus on: defense.
“I grew up being a scorer. I just started learning that defense is really important in my senior year of high school and freshman year of college,” Clover said. “In high school, I was a big guy, so I’d get rebounds, but now I have to become more aggressive on the offensive and defensive boards.”
The 6-foot-3 guard grew up in Philadelphia, about 10 minutes from Hawk Hill. His parents encouraged him to try a variety of sports, and Clover found a passion for football and basketball.
Football was Clover’s priority until his freshman year of high school.
“I figured out that I was better in basketball,” Clover said. “Football, everyone was way bigger than me. Even though I was a big guy, other guys were stronger and quicker than me. So, I started sticking to basketball and I got better each and every day.”
Clover’s decision to focus on basketball paid off. He finished his career at St. Joe’s Prep with 1,248 points, 405 rebounds, and 117 assists.
When the time came to commit to a college, coming to St. Joe’s was an easy choice. Clover liked the atmosphere and had gotten to know some of the team when he came to Hagan Arena to lift or play pickup.
Even better, the location meant Clover’s family could come see him play often.
Although his freshman season didn’t go how he hoped, Clover was determined to improve and earn minutes.
“I used [the limited playing time] as a motivator,” Clover said. “Becoming a better defender will get you on the court. Scoring the ball will get you on the court, also.”
Clover spent that summer focusing on improving his jump shot, getting stronger, and getting quicker. His mother, who played basketball in high school, had advice on how he could improve the defensive aspect of his game.
“She got every rebound and was attacking everything [in high school],” Clover said. “She wasn’t the offensive type. She was definitely more of a defensive player. She would always tell me, ‘You’ve got to box out. You’ve got to play defense like this,’ because that’s what she did, rebound and play defense.”
In the first 12 games of his sophomore season, Clover scored 52 points in 169 minutes off the bench – already a significant improvement from the previous season.
After then-junior Shavar Newkirk tore his ACL and was ruled out for the season, Clover found himself in the starting lineup. Of course, Clover wasn’t happy about the circumstances, but was glad he could contribute.
“It definitely was an adjustment because I had never started before in college, but my mindset was the same,” Clover said. “Just go out there and try to help my team win and do what I can.”
Clover’s parents were excited to see him starting, but pushed him to be better and build his confidence. Teammates also helped keep Clover motivated.
The boost in confidence paid off when Clover hit his stride toward the middle of February. In the final seven games of the season, he scored double-digit points five times, including 21 points against VCU and 19 points in a full-game effort against Duquesne.
“I wasn’t thinking a lot. I was just playing basketball, going back to my high school days where I just played and competed and had fun,” Clover said. “[Earlier in the season] was a wake-up call. It was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I have to go out there and compete.’ Some games I was coming out with two points. That wasn’t the Chris Clover that I know.”
Clover averaged 7.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in 30 contests. No one was happy with the team’s 11-20 record, and Clover spent the summer focusing on improving himself.
One of Clover’s priorities was his mentality. Maintaining a positive attitude was key for him to be able to help the team as best as he could.
“Things don’t always go your way, but you’ve got to always be ready,” Clover said.
An upbeat mindset was vital early on this season. Junior guard Lamarr Kimble *re-injured his foot in the season opener, and Clover again found himself starting under less-than-desirable conditions.
Clover understood the role he would have to take on, and felt better prepared than he had the previous year, thanks to his “stay positive and be ready” mindset.
“I want to go out and compete and win games. That’s all I want,” Clover said. “Last year was a disappointment… That left a bad taste in my mouth. Enough is enough. We want to win games and stay positive throughout the whole season and keep with it.”
Clover’s college basketball career might not be playing out as expected, but he’s learning, he’s improving, he’s contributing, and, more importantly, he feels right at home on Hawk Hill.