Gian Clavell is the undeniable leader of CSU basketball. The fifth-year senior guard from Puerto Rico has transitioned from being a sixth man that provided an offensive spark to being one of the key scorers and most valuable leaders for Larry Eustachy’s Rams.
Despite all of Clavell’s success, the guard has battled a variety of injuries and had to play through quite a bit of adversity, but he is excited for a fresh start in 2016.
Since the guard transferred to CSU from Northwest Kansas Technical College, he has been playing through various ailments, including a labrum injury that has plagued him since arriving in Fort Collins. For the first time in his collegiate career, Clavell is one hundred percent healthy and is ready to prove that he is one of the best players in the Mountain West.
“There’s no doubt, I feel like I am the best player in the conference,” Clavell said. “I have confidence in myself. I am fresh. I am 100 percent. I mean, I have been playing injured since I got here, but I kept playing though it.”
When healthy, or at least healthy enough, Clavell has been a deadly jump shooter that plays an integral role in the Colorado State offense. Before breaking a bone in his non-shooting hand and missing most of last season, Clavell was putting up video game type numbers in the first ten games of 2015, averaging 20.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 36.9 minutes per game.
After being granted a fifth season of eligibility by the NCAA last May, Clavell is ready to make his return to the court healthy, but also with a new perspective on the game. Clavell may have only played in 10 games last season, but while rehabbing, the eccentric guard learned a lot about being a vocal leader for the team.
All last season, Clavell could be heard screaming out encouraging words and tips based on what he was seeing from the sidelines. Now, he will look to apply some of that knowledge on the court.
“It made me see the game differently,” Clavell said, referring to being on the sidelines last season. “I see it completely different now. I see some spots on the court that I did not see when I was playing. I’m looking to have my biggest year, so it’s really good.”
Not only is Clavell looking to post his best individual season, but more than anything, he wants this team to compete for a conference championship and believes the team has both the skill and mindset to do so.
“We have a chip on our shoulders, even the new guys,” Clavell said. “They want to win. They feel like people were kind of making fun of us for having a bad year last year. Even though we had a winning season, it was still 18-16. So people were like ‘Oh, you’re going to that team?’ Okay, yeah sure, I am going to that team, but we are going to prove them wrong,” Clavell said about wanting to prove doubters wrong.
This is the closest team Clavell has been apart of at CSU, and the way he raves about his teammates proves exactly how close they are and that it is not just a blind statement he is giving to the media. Clavell is as genuine as it gets and that is really what makes him such an excellent leader for this team.
“It is hard for one person to be that leader for 14 other guys, like it is hard for everyone to listen to (Gian), but over time everybody really gained a lot of respect for him and he is doing a great job leading this team,” transfer guard Devocio Butler said.
When CSU lost Clavell last season, they did not just lose a scoring threat, they lost their on-court emotional leader. Getting a player like Clavell back is invaluable because his teammates trust him to produce when his number is called and know he will make the open pass if somebody is in better position.
Butler raved on his teammate.
“I love having Gian on the court, because the stats he puts up, it creates so many opportunities for us,” Butler said. “Everybody is going to be so focused on Gian. It just opens up the offense for everybody, so I love that he is back.”
“Gian is going to do his thing, everyone knows that. Just look at last year,” sophomore Prentiss Nixon said. “He is going to do his thing, but everybody else is going to do their thing too. One game he might score 10 points. One game he might score nine. He has no problem with that.”
Seeing the trust and respect Clavell has earned from his peers is a testament to how hard he has worked since transferring to CSU in 2014. A hard worker on and off the court, you can feel his passion for the game when he speaks on it and his basketball IQ is as high as anyone’s in the league.
If anybody deserves to have a successful season, it is Clavell. The leader of the Colorado State basketball team will look to help the program do something it has never accomplished — win the Mountain West.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.