Kansas State University

Kansas State's Clemente shifts focus

MANHATTAN — When Denis Clemente dropped 44 points on Texas last season, he forever established himself as a scorer.

It was one of those single-game performances that couldn't be ignored. It turned heads across the Big 12 and forced opposing coaches to devise game plans to stop him.

The Kansas State guard's 15-point average led the Wildcats, but as a senior he has yet to have the same type of signature moment — at least in the scoring department.

"It's a little bit like, 'Damn, why isn't that ball going in?' " Clemente said. "But at the same time, we're winning. I ain't going to get mad."

No, he isn't. With the No. 11 Wildcats off to a 13-1 start, Clemente insists he is not frustrated with his lack of scoring outbursts.

His season high may only be 22 points, and he has yielded the bulk of K-State's perimeter scoring duties to junior guard Jacob Pullen, who is averaging a shade more than 20 points. But Clemente is still averaging 14.1 points, and he's passing the ball better than ever. He has dished out five or more assists in six games.

During a win against UNLV, he put it all together for 22 points and nine assists. He's now responsible for more points than just the ones he scores. That means something to him.

"You're not going to say, 'That guy is the best player because he scored 35 points,' " Clemente said. "He's the dude who runs the team and is making everybody around him better. I think I'm doing that."

Clemente didn't come into the season planning to score less and pass more. It just happened that way. By taking fewer shots and passing on the mid-range floater he took so often a year ago, K-State became a more effective offensive team. So he stuck with it.

And when KSU coach Frank Martin told him he could help his pro stock by playing better defense, he listened.

"He'll be saying some day if you want to go somewhere and make some money... you gotta play D and play hard," Clemente said. "That's what I plan to do. I want to play for money next year, so I'm getting physically ready."

Like anyone else, Clemente would like to score more often, and before the end of the season. He says he's hungry for points, but he isn't going out of his way to help his stats.

What Martin thinks Clemente is doing better than anything else is taking good shots. Clemente says that's not going to change. He simply hopes to start making more.

"I'm doing the same thing as last year," Clemente said. "The only difference is I haven't made shots. Once the ball starts going in, you're going to see what happens."

Does that mean a 30-or 40-point game is in his future? Possibly, but his teammates don't care.

"He's grown up as a player since last year," senior forward Luis Colon said. "Actually, I think he's better than last year. He's a very important figure for our team. To be a complete player, you don't have to score 40 points or anything like that. All you have to do is help your team win, and we're winning."