As all the hoopla surrounding the Douglas County season has centered around All-American nominee and North Carolina signee Brandon Robinson, teammate Kalen Clifton has quietly continued to be a steady component for the team.
A soft-spoken guard/forward, Clifton enters tonight’s Class AAAAAA first-round playoff game as the Tigers second-leading scorer.
The Tigers, the No. 4 seed from Region 3-AAAAAA, travel to Region 2-AAAAAA champion Newton for a 7:30 p.m. contest.
“I really don’t care about being in the spotlight,” Clifton said. “It just adds more pressure to you. I kind of like coming in and surprising people.”
With the type of career he has had for the Tigers, not many are surprised at what the smooth, athletic Clifton can do.
He has used his 6-foot-3 frame to become one of the most versatile players in the state. Clifton, a four-year varsity starter, can play both on the perimeter and can operate in the paint if needed.
He is averaging 14.4 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Tigers, who have played one of the toughest schedules in the state. For his career, Clifton has scored 1,175 points for a 10.8 scoring average over the last four years.
Tigers coach Hollis Bethea has called him a cornerstone of the program.
“Kalen has been a huge part of our building this program,” Bethea said. “He is a great kid with tremendous athletic ability. He is definitely a big part of our offense. Kalen has been consistent throughout his career.”
And that is something that HoopSeen editor Justin Young likes about the multi-talented senior. HoopSeen, an online recruiting services, recently released its list of top-30 unsigned seniors in the state and Clifton was on the list.
“Kalen closed the summer really well,” Young said. “He scored and shot the ball really well. It was good seeing him play without Brandon. He is big and strong and can finish well.”
Clifton played this summer with the Smyrna Stars AAU program where he impressed many college coaches. He finished strong in the last tournament that the Stars had and caught the eye of Young.
Having a good summer is what Clifton credits to a solid senior year for the Tigers, who finished third during the regular-season in its region.
“The summer really helped prepare me for the season and what I was going to face,” Clifton said. “I think it is why I’ve had a better high school season. I think I’m playing more smarter and intelligent this season. I’ve really tried to work harder and help this team.”
Playing in the very competitive Region 3-AAAAAA has really helped Clifton develop. The region has been called the best in the state and features some of the top college prospects in the state.
He had a career-high 36 points in a 111-107 road loss at Pebblebrook. During the season, he scored in double figures in all but eight of the Tigers’ 27 games.
“Every single night Clifton went up against some of the top players in the state,” Young said. “He showed he could play with them.”