By Dan Truttschel~Sports Correspondent
As a young freshman, Wilmot’s Kari Clements made an immediate impact during the Panthers’ post-season run.
In just four games near the end of that year, she scored 25 points – but as it turned out, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Now at the end of her high school career, Clements is leaving with two straight Southern Lakes Conference Athlete of the Year awards.
Clements was also an honorable mention all-state selection this season.
All the recognition for the Minot State University recruit is a result of plain old hard work, her coach, Keiya Square said.
“It makes me happy when I see my players work hard, do everything we ask of them and for them to be rewarded like she has,” he said. “It also makes me proud of my team and our program.
“You can have the best player around, but if you don’t win, that player isn’t going to get the recognition they might deserve.”
Square’s coaching colleagues in the conference certainly recognized Clements’ efforts and how difficult it was to slow her down every single night.
“They have a lot of respect for her and what she can do,” he said. “Last year, there were some other kids put up for (the award), but this year, no one else was nominated because of the respect they have for her.”
Those changes were never more evident this year, as Clements rarely faced straight up man-to-man defenses.
There were plenty attempts at box-and-ones, triangle-and-twos and any number of other schemes coaches tried to concoct to stop her.
And while they may have slowed her scoring, Clements hurt them in other ways, her coach said.
“When she was getting face guarded or other teams were concentrating on her, she did a great job of getting her teammates involved,” he said. “She knew that she would have to get steals and layups if she wanted any easy points and she did that.”
“Her development from freshman year to now has been a joy to watch on both ends of the floor.”
A vocal leader
Anybody who knows Clements, either on the floor or in the classroom, knows a quiet and unassuming student-athlete who just goes about her business.
But in her senior year, she began to open up a bit and say what was on her mind, Square said.
And that was important with so many young girls on the varsity roster.
“Up until this year, she didn’t talk much and was more of a lead-by-example player, but in practice she would open up a little more and get kids refocused on what we needed to do,” Square said.
“I think she was also more comfortable coming and talking to me about what was going on and what she thought we needed to do throughout the year.”
Next up for Clements is NCAA Division II competition at Minot, and while college always is an adjustment, Square is confident she will do just fine.
There’s no reason to think otherwise.
“They are getting a player who can score from the outside, but can also take the ball to the basket,” he said. “She is very instinctive on the defensive end of the floor and knows how to get into passing lanes and make plays.”
Square hopes every girl in the program and even future Panthers took note of what Clements did in her high school career.
“If all of our current and future players can put as much emphasis on winning and not just what they are doing, then our program will be in good shape for a while,” Square said.