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SAM I Am
Austin Murphy
March 11, 2002
Driven by his relentless coach, Sam Clancy is making it clear that he and USC will be a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA tournament
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March 11, 2002

Sam I Am

Driven by his relentless coach, Sam Clancy is making it clear that he and USC will be a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA tournament

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This is a guy whose coach wants him to be meaner? Before his final regular-season game for USC last Saturday, senior forward Sam Clancy hatched a plan with his little sister, Samantha. The moment the public address announcer finished the Senior Day introductions of Sam, Samantha and their mother, Anetta Harris, Sis would snatch the wig from the head of their mom, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. "I'll give it to you, and you make a layup with it," Samantha said.

"No, throw me an alley-oop," said Sam. Then they both cracked up. Is that mean enough?

For the record the Clancy siblings didn't dewig Anetta, who laughed along with her kids and who resolutely refuses to let her cancer treatment get her down. The three family members stood with their arms around one another as the loudest and most sustained applause of the afternoon rained down on Sam before he led the Trojans in a 79-45 romp over Oregon State.

It was a fitting tribute to a player who could have jumped to the NBA after last season but instead came back to lead Southern Cal to a second-place finish in the Pac-10. At a predraft camp in Chicago last spring, Clancy was dominant, leading 60 other NBA wannabes in both scoring and rebounding. "In my first game," he says, "I had, like, 14 and 14 in 16 minutes. I was thinking, Wow, is this all there is to it?"

In a word: no. Scouts and coaches told Clancy, You're a huge talent and you had a nice camp, but do yourself a favor: Go back to college for another year. With all the underclassmen and Europeans in the draft, you might not be taken until the second round.

So Clancy returned. Good decision. While carrying the Trojans to within one game of the Pac-10 regular-season title, he worked his way up in this year's pro draft. "He's a lock for the first round and could be a lottery pick," says one NBA scout. As March's Madness draws nigh, the hottest player in the country may be Clancy, who had a streak of 11 straight double doubles that ended in an 83-64 loss to Cal on Feb. 23. During that stretch he averaged 22.6 points and 11.5 rebounds against some of the nation's best teams. He's a terror at both ends of the court, having averaged 19.2 points this season and ranked among the conference leaders in rebounds, blocked shots and steals. " Sam Clancy has dominated this league," says Golden Bears coach Ben Braun.

"I don't see how he can't be Pac-10 player of the year," said Stanford's Teyo Johnson after Clancy racked up 17 points and 11 rebounds in USC's 77-58 win over the Cardinal in Palo Alto on Feb. 21.

An outsider, noting that Clancy will end his career as the third-leading scorer in Southern Cal history, would conclude that the Trojans couldn't have asked more of their four-year starter. His coach, Henry Bibby, would disagree. Bibby, a former UCLA and NBA point guard, whose bald pate, flared ears and perpetual glower evoke both Nosferatu and Bob Knight, was a furnace of intensity as a player. "He's always telling us how much of a tough guy he used to be," says Clancy, smiling.

Bibby has spent four years alternately praising Clancy and lamenting Clancy's failure to play to his potential. A sampler of Bibby's gripes: Clancy is "lazy." Clancy is "soft as the Pillsbury Doughboy." Clancy "still lacks the killer instinct." If only Clancy would "play with a frown on his face." If only he would "be a mean son of a bitch."

Clancy smiles at this catalog of his shortcomings. "Because I'm easygoing, there's a perception that I'm not giving it my all," he says. He knows Bibby is simply trying to get the most out of him, and he appreciates it. "In my earlier years," Clancy says, "I'd be averaging, like, 17 points and seven boards, and Bibby would say, 'You could be getting 30 points and 20 rebounds.' And I'd say, 'C'mon. Be reasonable.' But then I started to ask more of myself, and I started to see that, hey, I can get double doubles every game."

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