Being a “legacy student” at a university – one who attends the same institution as a parent or grandparent – is not that uncommon; Bellarmine alone currently has 165 of them enrolled. But Morgan Clemons isn’t just a Bellarmine legacy. She’s a Bellarmine basketball legacy.
Morgan’s father, Bryan Clemons ’87, played guard on the men’s basketball team, and her mother, Stephanie Tracy Clemons ’89, was a three-time all-American forward on the women’s team. She still holds the school records in career points and rebounds and was inducted into Bellarmine’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.
Both of Morgan’s parents received basketball scholarships to attend what was then known as Bellarmine College. She followed in their footsteps when she too received a scholarship from Bellarmine in 2011 to play basketball.
Bryan and Stephanie dated through Stephanie Clemons’ graduation in May 1989, got engaged in November of that year and officially tied the knot on June 29, 1991. They have remained in Louisville ever since, and have been passionate in their support for the Knights. Morgan grew up attending Bellarmine games with her parents, and basketball seems to be in her DNA.
In high school at Sacred Heart Academy, she amassed 1,091 points and 833 rebounds as a starting forward all four years. She earned third-team all-state honors as a senior from The Courier-Journal and was a member of LouisvilleCatholicSports.com’s first-team all-Catholic schools squad. She played in Kentucky’s junior East-West all-star game, and, as senior in 2011, she earned all-tournament honors in the prestigious Louisville Invitational Tournament.
Choosing Bellarmine for college was easy, she said. “There was a level of comfort I had with the school. I have zero reservations about the decision. I love my professors and the school itself and my teammates will probably be friends for life.”
“We were thrilled when Morgan decided to attend Bellarmine,” said Bryan Clemons.
“Stephanie and I loved our years there, and we are very thankful that she is also able to enjoy all that Bellarmine has to offer. It is exciting to see the progress that has taken place on campus.”
Morgan Clemons is currently a junior (both athletically and academically) majoring in biology and intends to pursue medical school.
In response to whether she believes that she is a better student or athlete, she said, “I’d say student. Basketball has brought me a lot throughout my life; it has brought me to Bellarmine and a free education. My education will probably take me further in the long run than basketball, but I don’t want to seem like I didn’t accomplish anything through basketball.”
Though her coaches do not get to see the quality of work that she produces in the classroom, they obviously view her as a leader: She was announced as a co-captain this year along with Kelsey Lamb and Therese Montano, who are seniors.
“Morgan is what I call a self-starter; she does not need guidance or a motivator to get her in the gym to work on her skills,” said women’s head coach Chancellor Dugan. “My staff and I observed the team last season in an effort to locate our rising leaders; Morgan emerged onto all of our lists. She is the perfect illustration of leading by example, and she has really embraced her leadership role as just a junior.”
Coach Dugan led the Knights to a record of 19-11 in 2012, her first year as head coach. Morgan Clemons is confident that she and her teammates can improve on that record and go further into post-season tournament play than they did last year, when they fell to William Jewell in the opening round of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.
Tournament appearances are one thing, but Morgan has some additional pressure on her shoulders. Her mother still holds the school records for career points (1,936) and rebounds (1,085).
“My mother has always said that if anyone were to break her records, she would want it to be me,” Morgan Clemons said. But is it possible?
Morgan appeared in all 27 games as a freshman, and started 29 of 30 games as a sophomore. To date, she has scored 265 points and grabbed 226. “My mother was more of a basketball player than I will ever be, so I don’t put too much pressure on myself to break her records,” Morgan said. “In fact, I don’t really even think about them while I play.”
Setting records isn’t what Stephanie Clemons most cherishes from her time at Bellarmine, anyway. “Someday, those records will be broken,” she said. But “I will always remember playing college basketball at Bellarmine as a special time in my life, from the long practices in Knights Hall to playing in the Elite Eight in California. Long after the records are gone, I will still have those great memories to hold onto.”
Though the monstrous numbers amassed by her mother seem out of reach (perhaps for anyone), Morgan Clemons as a sophomore finished the season with the second-highest rebounding total and fifth-highest point total. She ranked ninth in the conference in offensive rebounds, with 2.5 per game.
“(Morgan) is not the tallest or the fastest girl out there, but nobody works harder than her on the court and that is how she is able to have the success that she has,” said Coach Dugan.
“As for my expectations for this upcoming year, it really doesn’t matter if I start, though I obviously want to play,” Morgan said. “I just want the team to be successful and be a contributor to that success.”
By Dakota Branham | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Bill Luster
Dakota Branham is a senior from Louisville who will graduate in May with a bachelor of arts in communications and psychology with a human services emphasis.