Vincennes University sophomores A.J. Patty and Everett Clemons not only get to continue their college basketball careers at the next level, but both feel that they have found destinations where they will be valued right from the start.
Patty found that sense of belonging at Murray State in Murray, KY, and Clemons got such a warm welcome from Indiana State Coach Greg Lansing and the Sycamores that he was sold on the Terre Haute school as his next stop on the academic and athletic journey.
Both the 6-8 Patty and 6-0 Clemons signed their national letters of intent Wednesday afternoon at the VU P.E. Complex with Coach Todd Franklin looking on. Both were major cogs in the Trailblazers' 33-2 record, No. 1 national ranking most of the season and third consecutive trip to the national championship tournament.
"I really liked the coaching staff; they worked hard from the start to stay in touch with me and let me know that they really wanted me to be a part of their program," Patty said of his choice of the Racers. "I also like their style of play. I watched them play quite a bit this season and they really tried to get the ball to the big men to score inside but they also get up and down the court."
Patty said, from a basketball standpoint, he was also helped in his decision-making by the fact that the Racers' will need personnel next season at the center and power forward positions because of graduations this spring.
"Those spots have opened up and they told me the chance is there for me, if I work hard, to play significant minutes," he added.
Patty averaged 13.0 points per game and led the Trailblazers in rebounding at 8.1 boards per contest in 2014-15. He had 27 points against Cochise in the Trailblazers' first round win at the 2015 NJCAA National Championship Tournament in Hutchinson, KS. Patty pulled down 17 rebounds against Columbia State earlier in the season. He had 36 blocked shots on the year.
Clemons said he came away from the recruiting process with the same feelings about Indiana State that Patty developed for the Racers program.
"The coaching staff and everyone with the program let me know right away that they were excited about the idea of having me there," Clemons said of the Missouri Valley Conference school. "That was big, but it's also a school in what is now a big conference. Coach Franklin, my mother and my high school coach all thought it was the right fit for me too, so I just want to come in there and win games so we can make the tournament."
If Clemons' development at VU after his arrival from Lanphier High School in Springfield, IL, is any indication, he should't have much trouble transitioning to the NCAA Div. I level. Clemons was a wing in high school and was asked to learn the point guard position for the Trailblazers. He evolved into a top-notch junior college playmaker and exhibited lock-down skills defensively, using his prep football experience to play a rugged, aggressive style on that end of the floor while dishing out 242 assists and yanking down 157 rebounds from his backcourt position.
Clemons averaged 9.4 points and 7.8 assists per game during his sophomore season. He also averaged 5.1 rebounds per contest. That level of production earned NJCAA Third-Team All-American honors.
"I watched a lot of Russell Westbrook - he's the triple-double guy," Clemons said of his propensity for filling stat lines with points, assists and rebounds. "But, when you play for Coach Franklin, you're expected to do those things. I wanted to do all those things because I want to be one of those guys he talks about to (future) players who will be here after me."