Laxcat Clinton cannot quench his thirst for the game

By Thèoden K. Janes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Imagine, for a moment, Khalid Reeves announcing that he will forgo the NBA draft in favor of playing summer-league ball and pursuing a coaching career.

Silly thought, isn't it? One would think any athlete with a shot at the pros would take it in a second.

But Derek Clinton is different. He says he probably wouldn't go pro even if he had the chance.

But Reeves plays basketball. Clinton plays lacrosse.

"The Major Indoor Lacrosse League (the sport's equivalent of the NBA) is just unbelievable, the violence," says Clinton, an attackman on the Arizona lacrosse club. "I mean, it's just crazy. The players are so athletic.

"If I ever got bigger, I guess I might try out, but I'm not the biggest kid."

Instead of the MILL, Clinton says he is likely to pursue a career in coaching on the youth or collegiate level once he graduates, while spending summers playing in any lacrosse league that will take him.

And if Clinton, who transferred to the UA from Hobart (N.Y.) College last year, does manage to get himself a job as a college coach, he will not be going in blind.

The 20-year-old undeclared sophomore coached a team consisting of seventh- and eighth- graders at Madison (Conn.) Daniel Hand High School last summer, an experience he thinks was a great benefit to the team.

"Early on, before high school, we just had parents coaching us who didn't know anything about the game," Clinton says, "so it was nice to know that I'd be giving the kids some real coaching.

"The kids responded great and it was great seeing them on the field, and seeing them doing what I taught them."

By February of this year, he was off the sideline and back in pads to begin his first season, and has played solidly since, despite what has proven to be a somewhat disappointing season for the Laxcats (7-5).

Always a scoring threat, Clinton's progress with the team reached a peak last weekend when he scored three goals in Saturday's game against Whittier (Calif.) College and four against UCLA on Sunday.

This high level of production has helped add a good deal of excitement to Arizona's games, something Clinton has always looked for in his life.

Take his start in lacrosse, for instance, which came about in eighth grade because he thought baseball was too boring.

But after six years playing the rough-and-tumble East Coast style of lacrosse, mostly at Daniel Hand High, Clinton was ready for a change.

He knew there was a program at Arizona, and had heard that it was more relaxed than those in the East, so it was an easy decision for him to make. The adjustment, however, was a bit more difficult.

"Back East, they are playing when they're six years old," Coach Mickey-Miles Felton says. "They learn the intensity at a very early age. From what I've seen, though, the people that come out from the East take the game out here a little too casually.

"I think Derek is in a transition period this year, but he has done a good job."

Clinton has been good enough to earn a starting position, and good enough to have several multiple-goal games. Not good enough, however, to help increase fan support.

Crowds for Laxcats' home games are relatively sparse, usually consisting of anywhere from 30 to 100 friends, relatives and lacrosse buffs. This is much different, Clinton says, from the East, where stadiums are often packed.

More important to Clinton than fan support, however, are the friendships he has developed during his time at Arizona.

He spends countless hours with teammates Pat Kunz and Jeff Wagener hanging out during the weekends and on road trips, although he says everybody on the team does everything together.

"The lacrosse team is like its own fraternity," Clinton says. "They're just a great bunch of guys." Read Next Article