FORT WAYNE – There’s senior Brittni Clopton on a Tuesday night watching a South Side boys basketball game. Before the opening tip, the senior has a book on her lap, acting as a mentor and teacher to a fellow student.
A four-year starter on the South Side girls basketball team, Clopton has combined talent, work ethic and intelligence to take on a bigger role for the Archers this season.
Clopton has always been a scholar off the court. She has a 3.91 GPA and is ranked No. 23 out of 385 in her senior class, and she is starting to display the same traits that make her a great student on the court.
Brittni is a perfectionist, so the last several seasons we had to work with her to trust her first instincts, South Side coach Juanita Goodwell said. She is very good at being patient and observing, which helps her to assess the situation. I believe that this is how she works in the classroom and how it helps her on the court.
The one thing I said to her starting this season was, You are a four-year starter for us, and I trust whatever decision you make on the court. You have the green light to do what you feel is right; trust your instinct.’ With that, she definitely has played with more confidence and hustle on both ends of the court.
The cerebral approach seems to work well for Clopton, sort of.
I have to be calm in the classroom, she said of using the same philosophy on the court. With the (basketball) game, we definitely try to work on defense; that’s something South Side’s known for. Once we get flowing on defense, everything else flows.
Clopton acknowledges her attributes but is unwilling to talk a lot about them.
I really don’t like to talk about myself, she said. I let my game speak for me, I guess.
Clopton’s importance to the team has been magnified this year with the graduation of three starters from last year’s team that won another SAC championship and advanced to the Class 4A state championship game. But Clopton doesn’t see the cupboard as bare.
We did lose some important players, but we are as talented as we were before, she said.
We can get the job done, if not better. It’s just a matter of people stepping up at the right times and filling in the roles we need them to fill in and everybody embracing those roles.
Clopton, who is averaging 10 rebounds and 3.2 steals, has college interest from Tennessee-Martin, Indiana State and Indiana Tech among others.
The personnel losses moved Clopton to small or power forward from more of a center spot last year, but she doesn’t feel any more pressure to increase her numbers to pick up the slack. Instead, she trusts her teammates to step up.
But Clopton has taken over as a leader.
She has had to step up into a leadership role this season, and she is looking to do that, learning every day, Goodwell said. She is a versatile player, which is very nice for us. I feel comfortable with her game in the paint and around the perimeter. She will be very instrumental to any success we have this season.