Elijah Clarance Has The Nydala Toughness Working To Conquer The Basketball World

It was only a few minutes afterthe Fraport Skyliners had lost a bitter contest to medi Bayreuth and most of the players in uniform were already on their way back to the locker room hanging their heads wondering why the word consistency remains a foreign word in their vocabulary. Some of the Skyliner farm team players who play in the ProB and didn´t dress for the game were still at the bench hanging out while their teammates like Quantez Robertson, Brady Heslip and Shawn Huff were gettingchewed out by head coach Gordon Herbert behind closed doors. One of thoseplayers is a well built young man named Elijah Clarance who was in deep thoughtas he often is if one observes him on and off the court wondering when will itbe my time to shine on the floor, but he also had something else on his mind.The Swedish shooting star who had an incredible 2018 U-20 European championships tournament where he was top scorer with 22 points per game didn´t land somewhere in a high division and not even in a first division team, but rather in the German Pro B which is the third division. Ok so his deal has its advantages, but in a way he took a step back in hopes of making two steps a headin the next few years. He has the opportunity to get BBL minutes, but like any other talent that has come to Frankfurt, getting to the BBL happens via goodplay in the Pro B. The 20 year old Swede has some obvious reasons why he is so often in deep thought and just in another place. The young man is a huge talent that feels like he still has a lot to prove, but what probably is most on his mind is if he can conquer the basketball world having that Nydala toughness and giving back to his mom and dad. He lived four years in the states, but the reality is that Nydala is something that will never totally leave his mind. Nydala is a neighborhood of Malmo and not one of the safest places to live in Sweden. When one thinks of Sweden one thinks of a very safe place to live in and it generally is a safe place to live in, but when one hears about gang violence then one can only be shocked that something like that is around in Malmo. In 2017 Swedish police placed the Nydala neighborhood in the most severe categories of urban areas with high crime rates. Elijah Clarance becomes very reflective when talking about his home in Sweden and when you look into his eyes, you realize that he experienced things in his young life that he’d rather not see again. And that is why being a successful basketball player is so important to him, because he wants to be able give back to his parents for doing such a good job raising him in a tough area. “Nydala isn´t one of the best neighborhoods around. There is a lot of violence and drugs from where I came from. I went to the worst ranked school in Sweden. Growing up there, I had to be tough otherwise I would have been picked on. One of my main motivations for playing basketball now is to help get my mother get out of there”, stressed Elijah Clarance.  His aggressiveness and self confidence that he shows for a 20 year old definitely has been noticed by his teammates. “You notice that kids who come from a tough area growing up tend to have a lot more toughness than others. You have to have a lot in your self to survive and he shows that on the court. If you don´t show confidence than that is a sign of weakness. You have to always keep that confidence with you and he has it”, warned Fraport Skyliner Jason Clark.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber meeting Elijah Clarance for the first time at a pre season tournament in Rhondorf

                Clarance is a 20 year old 195cmcombo guard that was born in Malmo, Sweden. He grew up in the tough Nydala neighborhood in Malmo, but as a teenager when kids can be most vulnerable to making the wrong decisions was sent to the United States in 2013 to not only to get away from the rampant crime, but to also experience a new culture in Hagerstown, Maryland. He spent three years there and attended Goretti highschool where he lived with a host family and was away from home for the first time in his life. In the summers, he returned back to Sweden and worked on his game and played with the Swedish junior national teams. In 2014 he took part at the European Championships U16 Division Bin Strumice (FYR Macedonia) playing 9 games averaging 7.4ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 51.8%, FT: 81.8% He then made the big step to the NCAA in 2017 joining Illinois State. That experience turned out to be a short one as he stayed only one year and ended his NCAA career and returned back to Europe. At Illinois State he played only 20 games averaging 2.8ppg, 1.1rpg, 1.4apg. His best game was a 15 point, 4 rebound and 4 assist game in a 76-68 winagainst S Illinois. The Swede was never at full strength which derailed his development in school and on the court. “I was injured there. I had a foot injury. A positive thing was that I learned the speed of the game. I had to make a decision after my year. It came down to either turning pro or staying in school. I want to go to the NBA. Coming to the Fraport Skyliners was the best step for my career. Illinois State was not a wasted year. I learned to get through adversary”, warned Elijah Clarance. Despite his tough year in the states, he returned back to Europe continuing to have that Nydala toughness andsprouting self confidence the way a Russell Westbrook does each time he has the ball and played at the 2018 U-20 European championships. This tournament was his break through as a player and put him on the basketball map. Clarance played an amazing tournament winning the scoring title averaging 22.4ppg, 6.4rpg, 2.7apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 48.4%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 71.7%. He scored in double figures in all seven games and had gigantic games against Serbia and Romania with 27 points a piece, 25 points against Serbia, 22 points against Iceland and 21 points against Greece. He came to the tournament with a huge chip on his shoulder and it paid off. “I faced so much adversary at Illinois State and I felt that nobody really saw the player that I really am. I felt the need to have to prove myself. I played very aggressive and played well”,stressed Elijah Clarance.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Elijah Clarance after he dropped 21 points in his first professional game in Germany in a Pro B win with Frankfurt over the Dragons Rhondorf

 

                After being the top player at the 2018 European championships one would have thought that he would have landed with a top Euroleague team as a double license player, but instead he moved to the Fraport Skyliners primarly playing for their farm team Juniors in the third league Pro B. Coming to the Fraport Skyliners is always an advantage especially for young players as the club belongs to the best youth programs in Germany. For Clarance coming to Frankfurt was a no brainer. “I had heard a lot of positive things about the organization. Important for me is to learn more about the European game and just get better. By practicing with the BBL team, I can learn their system while picking the minds of all the veterans”, warned Elijah Clarance. The Swedish shooting star got a one year deal with the club with an option for two years. He plays foremost with the farm team and is allowed to practice with the BBL team and also play in games as he did playing 2 minutes in a Eurocup game. He has been mostly very good in the Pro B , a league definitely to weak for him helping the team to their best start in their young history winning the first 6 games. Currently he is averaging 14,6ppg, 3,1rpgand 3,3apg. He scored in double figures in seven games including a 26 point explosion against the Scanplus Baskets and a 21 point effort against Rhondorf. He is a very athletic player that has a real quick first step and the kind of explosiveness that most guys don´t have. Besides getting better as a player he wants to learn the finer points of being a good point guard. “My strengths are my athleticism and explosiveness. I can create for my teammates and myself. I came to Frankfurt to learn to become a point guard and use my abilities to the maximum. I need to learn to make my teammates better. I feel like I´m starting to see the floor better”, warned Elijah Clarance. Head coach Gordon Herbert has lauded Clarance´s work ethic and his teammate Jason Clark who played against some of the current best NBA players while balling for Georgetown(NCAA) has been impressed by the Swedish shooting star. “He is a super athletic player that works very hard at his game. He plays hard at both ends of the court and most important is willing to get better something that not all young players do. He has his ups and downs and is learning, but he will be great”, warned Jason Clark.

 

                The 20 year old  who sees Quantez Robertson as a mentor compareshis game to a Russell Westbrook and Damien Lillard and despite his athleticismand explosiveness standing out in games as his dunks are breathtaking, he doestake very much pride in his defensive assignments. “I always want to shut my man down in each game”, warned Elijah Clarance. The Swedish shooting star had two tough games in the Pro B. The first one was against Giessen where he scoredonly 3 points on 1/8 shooting. His shot didn´t fall early which prompted him to force too much. In the other game, he produced only 4 points in a loss to theBayer Giants Leverkusen on 2/6 shooting. In this game he was slowed down well as the opponent had scouted perfectly. He didn´t fret or force things, but took the opportunity to find his teammates. At age 20 he won´t always be consistent and knows that he has enough guys to go to in the organization that will help him with his game. “He has frustrating days and it´s part of the process. When things aren´t going well, I just tell him to always remain positive. Paying attention to detail is important as the small things make a big difference. I always tell him to keep staying aggressive. He does that. You don´t see many players like him who stay aggressive on each play”, warned Jason Clark. When you talk to head coach Gordon Herbert and would ask him about Clarance´s dunking talent, he might cringe at first saying the young player should concentrate on other aspects of his game, but there is no getting around the fact that Clarance has unending dunking potential. There have been times this season where he was in flight to the basket and you feared for the well being of the rim. Gordon Herbert has stated that Clarance could become a physical beast. His dunking and aggressiveness go hand in hand. “I watch guys like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard. I feel like when I´m dunking, I´m setting the tone. Dunking is electrifying and gets me in the mood of being aggressive”, smiled Elijath Clarance. Not only the fans have notice dhis flights to the rim, but also his teammates. “I have seen him dunk. He is athletic and attacks the rim hard. He gets off the floor early and just rocks the rim”, explained Jason Clark. Clarance isn´t the only very talented young buckin the Frankfurt organization, but there is also 16 year old German Len Schoorman who plays primarily for the U-19 youth team, but also for the Pro B team and is also on a good way to having a very promising career. In a way he has many of the same qualities in his game as does Clarance. Schoorman likes to  also dunk like Clarance and in a way is like a mini version of the four year older Swede. Both profit from each other. “He is very talented. We are in the same situation. We are off guards and athletic. We need to learn to slow down the game and let it come to us. We are both blessed of having this athleticism.We need to trust the process. As soon as we understand how to change the pace, then the game will come a lot easier to us than to other players”, stressed Elijah Clarance.

Miles Schmit-Scheuber interviewing Elijah Clarance after dropping 6 points in his first easyCredit BBL game in a win over the Basketball Lowen Braunschweig

 

                The Swedish shooting star had his coming out on a professional stage on November 14th where he was thrown into an Eurocup game against top ACB team Unicaja Malaga, because some of the veterans were struggling. Not only did Clarance pass the test in flying colors, but he was instrumental in Frankfurt staging a huge come back where his aggressiveness and energy were very present. As a guy who lives on the rim, coming in and making a put back dunk couldn´t have been more fitting. He followed that up with a swift quick sprint to the hoop and finished with his left hand. The icing on the cake came with his last bucket of the evening where he came from the right side, beat his man and flew to the hoop and stuffed with his left hand demonstrating nasty authority. ““We had guys in foul trouble and I had a feeling I would get minutes. I just played my game being aggressive and bringing intensity. On my left handed dunk, I wasn´t that warm yet. It was an ok dunk. If it would have been at the end of the game, I would have jumped higher”, smiled Elijah Clarance. “Clarance played very well. He brought energy and aggressiveness. He played with a lot of passion and that sparked us”, stressed Jason Clark. Not only does Clarance compare his game to NBA player Russell Westbrook, but so does his teammate Jason Clark as the NBA is a topic that is also on the mind of the Swedish shooting star. “He attacks the rim with his aggressiveness like a Westbrook. He has nonstop energy and uses it in the right way and he plays very hard on defense”, warned Jason Clark. There are so many talented players that dream of the NBA, but don´t make it. Then again there are other players like Elijah Clarance that also dreams of the NBA, but the difference between not making it and possibly making it lies in the attitude something that he possesses. “My goal is the NBA. I want to play at the highest level and be the best that I can be. I feel the way I play is suited best for the NBA. I try to work as hard as I can. I fully understand that at the moment I´m no where near my full potential. I feel that in order to reach my full potential that I need to work harder than most players out there”, warned Elijah Clarance. He gave his easyCredit BBL debut on November 24th against Braunschweig and got extra minutes because Jason Clark was out with an injury. He finished with 6 points in 13 minutes and scored one spectacular basket after the other.

He first spectacular basket was a massive dunk taking flight somewhere near the free throw line as his acrobatics are continuing to take notice in the BBL. The second amazing bucket was a beautiful drive from the baseline and finished with an acrobatic reverse lay up that he hit high off the back board. On his last basket, he started on the right spun around his man and made another flying left handed jam that sent some more new ooh´s spiraling through the arena as every new dunk seems a tad bit more spectacular than the last. A few minutes after the win, Clarance passed me with a twinkle in his eyes and just muttered “You like that one”? His dunks have been a topic of conversation in this young season and after the win the Swede shooting star explained his three spectacular plays of the night. “I think the first dunk was my best because it was my first BBL points. On the reverse lay up, it felt good when I let it go, but I wasn´t sure if it was good enough to go in”, smiled Elijah Clarance. The sky is the limit for the young Swedish shooting star as he wants to reach the NBA, but even if he doesn´t, his work ethic and desire to get better is something that will take him far. He has that Nydala toughness that will not only help him conquer the basketball world, but with NBA or not, it will only be a matter of time before he gets that first big pay day where he can free his mom from the hardships of the Nydala neighborhood. But the again his whole Frankfurt experience and work ethic of wanting to learn and get better might be a good omen for him. Not too long ago there was another player that played with the Fraport Skyliners that had that special worth ethic. His name is Isaac Bonga and is with the Los Angeles Lakers and is working very hard to conquer the basketball world.

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