For the last four seasons, Campbell’s Chris Clemons has been one of the most prolific scorers in the nation. Now, as his college career enters its final two months, he’s shooting for his place in history.
In the season-ending CBI tournament last year, Clemons moved past Wake Forest scoring leader Randolph Childress’ 2,208 points. In a 30-point outing against Austin Peay on Dec. 21, he sped past NC State leader Rodney Monroe’s 2,551.
Last Thursday, a 26-point night against Presbyterian put Clemons past Duke’s JJ Redick, leaving just one hurdle left before Clemons becomes the North Carolina’s all-time college scoring leader.
Assuming he continues at his 28.3 points per game scoring average — which, oh, by the way, leads the nation by a full point — Clemons would reach UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough and his 2,872 points on Feb. 7 at High Point.
Clemons is currently 19th on the NCAA’s career list. Before reaching Hansbrough, at No. 13, he’d pass former Knick Allan Houston (University of Tennessee), Celtics legend Larry Bird (Indiana State) and Hall of Famer Otis Birdsong (Houston).
Just how high can the 5-foot-9 guard from Raleigh’s Millbrook High School climb? At his current scoring rate, Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes (Houston) would fall on Feb. 9, home against USC Upstate. He’d pass current Wake Forest coach Danny Manning (Kansas) on Feb. 16, moving him into the top 10 all time.
Next up is Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati) into ninth on Feb. 21, against High Point. By senior day, against Radford on March 2, he’d finish the regular season in sixth place.
At that point, he’d be at 3,080 points. Clemons would likely need at least a three-game stay in the postseason — between the Big South Tournament and whatever national tournament bid the Camels can earn — in order to crack the top five.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Mississippi Valley State’s Alphonso Ford are certainly within reach. A five-game postseason run — Campbell had four games last year, with a first-round Big South exit and a three-game CBI march — would put him past Lionel Simmons in third place. Six games — a Big South title game appearance and three national tourney games — would put Freeman Williams (Portland State) and second place within reach.
He’d still be more than 400 points shy of record holder Pete Maravich — who, coincidentally, played for Raleigh’s Broughton High School in the ’60s.
Career points lists aside, Clemons has put up simply ridiculous numbers at Campbell. In 117 career games, he’s scored in double digits 116 times, and his current streak of 102 straight double-figure outings is fourth best all time.
He’s topped 20 points in a game 80 times, including streaks of 12 and six straight games this year. He’s topped 30 points 22 times, including six times this year, and he’s the only Camel player to score 40 in a game, doing that three times in his career, including 44 against UNCW to open this season and 45 at Georgetown in November.
Clemons will clearly finish his Campbell career as one of the most successful college players in history. Where does he go from there, however?
For all of his scoring prowess, Campbell’s size will give many NBA teams pause. It’s the main reason he ended up at Campbell after his size scared off major conference teams on the recruiting trail.
Clemons has done his part to get on the radar of NBA squads. He’s declared for the draft each of the last two seasons, taking advantage of the rule that allows college players to go through the pro evaluation process then return to school as long as they don’t hire an agent.
Clemons worked with Denver and Boston after his sophomore year, Cleveland and Brooklyn this past offseason, then returned to Campbell with their feedback in mind.
To make the floor in the NBA, he’ll likely need to serve as a point guard. While he’s clearly still the Camels’ top scoring option, his assist numbers have crept up each season, to 3.3 per game this year. He’s also cut his turnovers slightly and improved his accuracy on two and three-point shots, even while taking more of each.
Still, Clemons isn’t listed on any major mock draft sites, even as a potential second-rounder. It appears his professional journey will start either in Europe or the G League, even with his historic scoring numbers.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Among the people still to pass on the scoring list for Clemons are Harry Kelly, who was 6-foot-7 and in sixth place all time. After getting cut by the Hawks in training camp in 1983, the Texas Southern scoring star took a job with Houston’s Department of Public Works.
Keydren Clark (seventh place) was 5-foot-11 and had a long career in Europe, never playing a minute in the NBA. Alphonso Ford was fourth all-time and 6-foot-3, which got him a total of 11 games in the league.