John Denton's Knights Insider: Clanton Approaching Key Milestone

Jan. 4, 2012

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - It's only fitting that Keith Clanton, who is unassuming and mild-mannered as any basketball player you'd ever meet, would yawn at a flashy accomplishment and instead cast his attention toward one that personifies his workmanlike mentality.

If Clanton matches his usual steady production Wednesday night when UCF (10-3) hosts Tulane (12-2), the 6-foot-8 power forward will become become just the 15th player in school history to score at least 1,000 points. Sixteen points will do the trick and that's again fitting considering that UCF's do-everything junior enters averaging 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds.

But even though the scoring mark is well within reach, it's the rebounding and blocked shots lists that Clanton is working to move up. He is already tied for second all-time in blocks with 127 and fully expects to move to the top of the rebounding charts with 594 boards in his career. Ken Leeks, who played at UCF from 1988-92, is the leader in both categories, but in Clanton's eyes there's an expiration date on his stranglehold of the record books.

``I have always said that I would rather get more rebounds than points,'' Clanton said. ``It would be great to get to the top of the rebounds list. The blocks are something that I have thought about. Most people don't think that I'm very athletic, and I think the blocks show that I am athletic.''

The Knights will need to be plenty athletic against when Conference USA play opens against a Tulane team that is off to its best start since the 1994-95 season. The Green Wave upset Georgia Tech earlier in the season. But the Knights have some key wins themselves, having already beaten defending national champion UConn and 2011 postseason teams College of Charleston and Old Dominion.

The Knights are finally whole after getting A.J. Rompza, its starting point guard, back last week for the championship win of the UCF Holiday Classic. They know that a strong showing in C-USA play will add to their solid nonconference resume and put them in position for a NCAA Tournament bid in mid-March.

``It's the second half of the season and I feel like we're ready to go. We've got everybody back now. Nobody really knows how good we are, and it's kind of funny because we don't really know how good we are either,'' UCF sophomore forward Tristan Spurlock said. ``But we have everybody back and we know how good we think we can be. If we work like we're supposed to it will be a special season.''

Clanton is undoubtedly a special talent, especially now that he worked each of the past two seasons to sculpt his physique and trim his body fat index to 8.5 percent. And much like a mentality where Clanton often prefers laying the ball up instead of dunking it, he just goes about his business a little differently.

Clanton, you see, is simply wired differently than most chest-thumping, self-promoting basketball players. If fellow junior teammate Marcus Jordan is a shiny, red Lamborghini, then Clanton is the dependable, tan Chevrolet. If Detroit-born sophomore Isaiah Sykes is hardcore, in-your-face rap music, then Clanton is smooth jazz. And if Rompza is a man constantly moving and chatting up anyone who will listen, then Clanton is the one who quietly goes about a job he does quite well.

Even his rise up the scoring charts is something that he almost seems embarrassed by. But to put his accomplishment truly in context, Clanton is about to join the 1,000-point club in 79 career games. Former All-American shooting guard Jermaine Taylor needed 82 games to ring up his 1,000th point. ``It's not something that I have thought about,'' said Clanton, whose scoring average has risen each of his three seasons at UCF. ``It just kind of happened. I don't go out there trying to get as many points as I can. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win.''

That wanting to win and willingness to do whatever it takes to improve has made Clanton one of head coach Donnie Jones' favorites. He knows the 1,000-point plateau is likely just the first of many accomplishments for Clanton before he's finished at UCF.

``This is a great accomplishment for Keith. Not many players in the history of our program have scored 1,000 points and this shows the potential that Keith has,'' said Jones, whose Knights enter tonight's game against Tulane riding a 13-game winning streak at UCF Arena. ``He has worked so hard and it is great for him to join this (1,000-point) group.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.