Marc Daniels' From the Press Box: Gentle Giant Clanton will Get His Roar

Feb. 1, 2010

By Marc Daniels

Meet UCF freshman forward Keith Clanton and it's easy to became a fan. Clanton laughs, smiles, even sings (although teammates might question calling it singing). You get a sense Clanton is just a nice guy who happens to play basketball and is very good at it.

To a fault, that might be Clanton's next hurdle at the college game. UCF's most decorated high school recruit might need to develop a little chip on his shoulder. While he has his freshman moments that make his coach roll his eyes, such as a seven-turnover game, Clanton also possesses moves that guys playing in the three letter league (NBA) don't have.

Clanton won a state title last year playing for local basketball power Orlando Christian Prep. He was named Florida Class 1A player of the year. He played some of the nation's best in high school but things might have come a bit easier in some games. Few matched his height and his athletic ability gave him a big advantage over opponents.

However, in his rookie campaign in college, he has faced some of the best big men in the country. Clanton has faced likely NBA Draft pick Jerome Jordan of Tulsa, potential first overall pick in 2011 Hassan Whiteside of Marshall, likely all-Big East first teamer Stanley Robinson of UConn and other top frontcourt players. But despite facing those talented players, Clanton has still managed to average almost 10-points a game and pull down almost seven rebounds a contest.

In the recent game against Tulsa, Clanton showed a glimpse of the future when he scored 17 points in showing a variety of moves that left Jerome Jordan wondering where Clanton was at times. Clanton can bring the ball up the court like a guard, can cross over his dribble and drive to either his right or left. But watch Clanton head fake and drive or spin and finish and it is easy to see why the upside is so big.

In time, he will get more comfortable taking the 15-foot jump shot and knock them down, and he will hit the occasional three, but there is one thing to for the big guy to develop... an attitude.

For every smile Clanton offers off the court, you'd like a scowl on the floor. No one wants to take his enthusiasm away, but we like our big men to play with some anger. We want those big guys to make it clear to opponents that they own the paint. They dictate who comes in and who is allowed to score. That will grow in time. Those fadeaways will become aggressive moves against opponents and fewer shots will get blocked.

Speaking of blocking shots, Clanton's ability to block shots from behind without fouling cannot be taught, it's natural. And that's what will happen to Clanton's demeanor. In time, he will grow that chip. The raw skills are so good, that as the rest of the package falls in place, he has the game to be the most complete big man in the league.

Marc Daniels' From the Press Box runs several times per month on UCFAthletics.com. Listen to Marc during UCF football, men's basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF-ISP Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts "The Beat of Sports" on ESPN 1080 in Orlando from 9-11 a.m.