Being a college starter had always been on Chris Clover’s “to do” list. Although he was named the MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League his senior year at St. Joseph’s Prep, Clover wasn’t sure what to expect from his freshman year on Hawk Hill. He was just excited for the opportunity.
Clover didn’t play much his freshman season: 65 minutes in 20 games. While the experience of being on the Atlantic 10 Championship team was great, Clover wanted more.
“I worked really hard going into my sophomore year,” Clover said. “Well, each year I worked hard, but sophomore year, I worked specifically hard because I wanted the opportunity to play… It ended up being a mental battle, just battling myself. As a senior, I’ve overcome that and now I’m in a way better place than I was going into my sophomore year. I know what to expect.”
While Clover’s hard work did earn him more playing time, he didn’t begin the season as a starter. It was tough; he had thought that his hard work would help everything fall into place and he could call himself a college starter.
The injury bug hit the Hawks hard that season, and Clover became a starting guard for the team after then-junior Shavar Newkirk tore his ACL. No one wants to see a teammate get hurt, but Clover was determined to make the best of the situation.
“It was just a great opportunity to start and get my feet wet,” Clover said. “It was just a blessing, that’s all. It probably wasn’t my best year, but it helped me grow.”
Some of the mental aspects of it were difficult for Clover, though. He still wasn’t totally sure what his role on the team was and he was often tough on himself. He wanted to be the best, so any games where he felt he hadn’t played well weighed on his mind heavily.
For all the anguish those mental battles caused, Clover is glad he had those experiences. It helped him become a better player and he’s been able to enjoy the game more, though those realizations didn’t come immediately.
Clover prepared for his junior season with a clear goal: start games. After then-junior Lamarr Kimble fractured his foot in the season opener, Clover was back in the starting lineup. There were still some mental battles Clover struggled with during the season, but things eventually began to fall in place.
“Towards the end of my junior year, I started to learn myself more and learn my game more,” Clover said. “I guess you could say it was ‘too late,’ but not really because I still can play basketball after this level and become a better player.”
Remaining confident and not being as hard on himself were key aspects in helping Clover improve. He didn’t have any expectations coming into his final year at Saint Joseph’s. If he wound up as a starter again, that would be fine, but he wasn’t focused on it the way he had been in previous seasons. When he was on the court, he would make the best of it however he could.
Clover spent the offseason focusing on the mental part of his game. Better knowing himself as a person and a player would translate well to whatever role he’d take on the court.
“Basketball is just an extension of your personality,” Clover said. “That’s how I feel. When you’re on the court, you’re just being yourself, and I learned to be myself more on the court and that’s what helped me prevail.”
Clover made a few starts in the first part of the season and found himself back in a consistent starting role after Kimble fractured his hand. Again, not ideal circumstances to be a starter, but Clover was committed to helping the team however he could.
This time was easier than the past few years, though. He didn’t have any uncertainty about what his role was. His mindset was the same for starting and coming off the bench: bring energy, give it his all, and be himself.
The new outlook worked well for Clover, as he scored double digits multiple times and recorded his first career double-double at Davidson.
“I didn’t even know I had [the double-double] until I checked Twitter the next day,” Clover said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Oh, man, I got it.’ That was something I wanted to get because last year I had a near double-double against Temple [17 points and nine rebounds], and this year I had it, too [against Richmond with nine points and 10 rebounds].”
It all came down to being himself, and he’ll carry that with him going forward. With his days on Hawk Hill dwindling, Clover’s looking to the future. He knows he wants to continue to play basketball, but he’s not sure exactly what the plan is yet.
The end goal is playing in the NBA and Clover thinks playing overseas for a while seems like the best path there. Wherever he ends up, he knows the key to success is being himself on and off the court.
Clover’s freshman year, the Hawks won the A-10 Championship and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2004. The championship game against VCU was thrilling for everyone and Clover even got to play in the last minute of the matchup. Something else sticks out as Clover’s favorite memory as a Hawk, though.
“I would definitely say my freshman year playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Clover said. “We were playing Cincinnati and won on that missed buzzer-beater dunk. That was the most hyped I’ve ever gotten. I was more hyped in that situation than winning the A-10 Championship that year. I don’t know what it was. It was just a great feeling.”
It hasn’t always been easy, but Clover’s time on Hawk Hill has helped him grow and understand who he is as a person and a player. The college basketball part of his journey will be over soon, but Clover will still be out there, chasing the thrill of winning and working his way towards his dream.