Ramon Clemente in Madison Square Garden. Of course, he talked to Spike Lee.
Clemente played for Puerto Rico in its recent exhibition game against the United States, a tuneup for the FIBA World Cup that started Saturday. Clemente, who grew up in Queens, didn’t play for his high school. He went to Texas for junior college and played two seasons at Wichita State.
Playing in the Garden seemed an unlikely dream. So when he made it, he took advantage.
“I soaked up every bit of that moment,” he said.
Clemente spotted Lee during the layup line and broke away to chat. He wished Bulls star Derrick Rose well in his return from knee surgery. He told Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, whose father is Puerto Rican, he played for the wrong team. He guarded Rudy Gay.
At halftime, Lee found Clemente and asked if he was related to deceased baseball star Roberto Clemente. Yes, Ramon replied, he is my grandfather’s cousin. Then he told Lee to take care of former Shocker Cleanthony Early, a rookie with the Knicks.
He estimated about 40 family members and 150 friends, including Early and former Shocker Toure Murry, came to the Garden to watch.
“That was one of the best feelings ever,” he said.
Clemente, whose father is from Puerto Rico, earned a spot the national team with his performance in the Centrobasket Championship in early August in Mexico. He averaged 8 points and 4.3 rebounds in six games and Puerto Rico finished second behind Mexico. He scored 13 points in the championship game, a 74-60 loss to Mexico.
“As soon as I came in the first day of practice, I just went hard,” Clemente said. “They had to keep me.”
Puerto Rico opened World Cup play on Saturday against Argentina. Clemente’s first goal is to advance to the second round, something Puerto Rico hasn’t done.
“We have really good guard play,” he said. “We’re undersized, but we’re all athletic. We’re quicker than most teams.”
Clemente, a 6-foot-6 forward, played in Italy last winter and plans to return to Europe this year. He plays in Puerto Rico during the summer.
In the lead — Believe Academy guard Jared Wilson-Frame heard a lot about WSU basketball coach Gregg Marshall and Wichita State from his former prep school coach, Tyson Waterman.
Waterman, now an assistant at Southeastern Louisiana, is a good source. He was a star on Marshall’s first Winthrop teams. When he called Wilson-Frame the type of player who would thrive under Marshall, the player listened.
“He told me the player and the kind of person he became was because of (Marshall),” Wilson-Frame said. “I already knew a lot about Wichita State and (Marshall) and how they do things.”
When the Shockers started recruiting Wilson-Frame (6-5, 220 pounds) this summer, he was thrilled. It didn’t take long to form a strong relationship with assistant Greg Heiar.
“Me and Coach Heiar have the best relationship a player and a coach could ever have,” he said. “We talk all the time. We talked (Thursday) and it had nothing to do with basketball.”
That background causes Wilson-Frame to call WSU his leading school in a group that includes Providence, Tennessee and Hofstra. He plans to visit this fall.
Wilson-Frame is from Hartford, Conn., and comes from a family of 11 children. He wants that same atmosphere in college. He played three seasons at Windsor (Conn.) High before moving to Believe Academy in Rock Hill, S.C. a year ago.
“One of my biggest things is having a big family feel,” he said. “I want to go someplace where the coach is like a father and teammates that are brothers.”
Work with me — North Idaho College point guard Austin Pope is considering several schools. One factor helps Wichita State’s spot on his leaderboard.
He knows all about their success with junior-college players, starting with Early.
“They get the best out of their players,” Pope said. “That’s the main thing that turned me on to Wichita. I like that they play hungry. They play with a chip on their shoulder like no other team.”
Pope (6-6, 180) is also considering Oklahoma State, UCLA, Bowling Green, Penn State and TCU. He said Heiar will visit him later this month to watch workouts. Then they might set up an official visit.
One recruiting service ranks Pope, from Burbank, Calif., the No. 8 juco player in the class of 2015. He averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists as a freshman at Cerritos (Calif.) College.
Pope’s talents include music. He earned first chair with the saxophone in middle school and, while basketball limits his time, he enjoys playing jazz.
St. Anthony (N.J.) small forward Markis McDuffie will visit WSU on Sept. 26, according to NJ.com. He will also visit Boston College (Sept. 12) and VCU (Sept. 19), with others possible.
McDuffie (6-7) is ranked a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.
Worth noting — Former WSU track and field coach Herm Wilson is holding an open house to visit with friends and former athletes from 1-5 p.m. Sept. 7 at Larksfield Place Assisted Living, 2727 N. Rock Road. … WSU’s men’s golf team opens its fall season on Saturday at the Wolverine Intercollegiate in Ann Arbor, Mich. The women’s team starts on Sept. 8 at the Chip-N-Club Invitational in Lincoln, Neb. … WSU will hold its softball alumni game at 1 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Wilkins Stadium. Cost is $15 for dinner and a T-shirt. Deadline to register is Monday. For information call 316-978-5550.