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Calusa's Clemente Commits To Canes

Point guard Denis Clemente, ranked among the nation's top players, orally commits to the University of Miami.


September 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

The future of the University of Miami's men's basketball program just got a whole lot better.

Calusa Prep point guard Denis Clemente, who led the state with 33.5 points per game last season, orally commited to UM on Friday. He can make it official when the signing period begins Nov. 10.

Clemente could start as a freshman next season, joining former Miami Christian star Guillermo Diaz and Cincinnati's Robert Hite in a three-guard offense.

''I will have to work real hard [at UM] to earn my spot,'' Clemente said. ``But if I do that, I think I can start next year.''


Clemente, who like Diaz is a native of Puerto Rico, said his friend played a big role in selecting UM.

''I wanted to play with Guillermo,'' said Clemente, who has known Diaz for years. ``He's like my brother.''

Clemente's decision continues a strong trend by new UM coach Frank Haith, who has secured three oral commitments from South Florida basketball stars, including forwards Brian Asbury of South Miami and Adrian Thomas of Flanagan.

A fourth local standout, 6-10, 245-pound center Abdul Herrera of South Miami, is considering UM along with Ohio State, Cincinnati, Kansas State and St. John's.

Haith can't comment on the players until signing day, but Pilin Alvarez, Clemente's AAU coach, raves about his star.

''What people love about Denis is that he is a point guard/scorer,'' said Alvarez, who coached Clemente and Diaz on his Miami Tropics AAU team. ``A lot of people compare him to [NBA point guard] Tony Parker. Denis has that floater [shot] in the lane.

'He's a tremendous outside shooter and a `yo-yo' ballhandler. He can take anyone off the dribble. And he has great speed -- 3.6 seconds from end line to end line.''

Clemente, who says the part of his game he most wants to improve is his defense, is coming off an amazing summer. At the Peach Jam in Augusta, Ga., considered the top AAU tournament in the nation, Clemente led all players with 26.5 points per game.

''All the major colleges were there scouting,'' Alvarez said. 'The Duke coaches came up to me and said: `Who the heck is this kid?' They and North Carolina and others were real interested. Wake Forest wanted him to start next year.''


Clemente narrowed his list to UM, Arkansas, Ohio State, Cincinnati and South Florida before canceling planned trips in order to commit to Miami. A full academic qualifier, Clemente is ranked as high as the eighth-best prospect in the nation by Athlon and 43rd by

''He's thrilled,'' Calusa Prep coach Tim Fowler said. 'His big thing was, `I'm playing in the ACC!' Plus, he's home. This is nice. We're very excited.''

Fowler should be. This will be the biggest signing ever at Calusa Prep, a tiny school (75 high school students) that opened in 1981.

Fowler said Clemente is a quiet, shy, skinny kid who surprises his opponents.

''He doesn't look like much,'' said Fowler of Clemente, who is 6-0 and arrived last year at 130 pounds and is now up to 160. ``People see how skinny he is. But then he blazes by you.

``He's a true point guard. He has the vision and the ball-control. This is my 20th year in coaching, and I can't remember seeing a kid who can handle the ball like that. It's like he was born with a ball in his hands.''

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