KALIB CLINTON

Jackson County's Kalib Clinton has accounted for 56.7 percent of the Panthers' offense this season, scoring 552 of the team's 979 points. The junior is averaging 26.75 points and 10.15 rebounds per game. 

Most high school players would be thrilled to go out and post a double-double. For Kalib Clinton, it’s almost news if he doesn’t.

Few basketball players in the region mean more to their teams than Clinton does to Jackson County. The Panther junior is averaging 26.75 points and 10.15 rebounds per game. He has scored 552 of Jackson County’s 979 points this year — accounting for 56.3 percent of the team’s offense.

It’s a load the 6-foot-5 Clinton said he’s happy to bear when asked if he feels pressure to produce those numbers nightly.

“It’s not pressure, but I feel like my teammates need me to do what I needed to do,” Clinton said. “I think they see me as a leader, so I need to step up and do what I need to do and make big plays for them.”

Clinton is coming off a particularly big stretch — even for him — exploding for 73 points over the weekend in a pair of Panther wins.

He tallied 40 points Friday (Jan. 24) against Morgan County as the Panthers knocked off the Bulldogs, 55-35. Clinton was quick to point out that his numbers could have been better.

“I should have had 47 (points) — I missed seven free throws,” Clinton said.

He then posted 33 points the following night in the Panthers’ 62-30 blowout victory over Athens Academy.

Jackson County coach Ty Baumgardner points to his star player’s size and athleticism and said Clinton has dominated accordingly.

“Obviously, the numbers he’s putting up are impressive,” Baumgardner said. “But he’s 6-4, 6-5, athletic, strong. This region is not blessed with huge size, so quite honestly, he’s putting up numbers that are expected.”

Naturally, Clinton draws hordes of attention from opposing defenses with his size, skill, athleticism and production. That’s fine with him. His first inclination is to score. But if it’s not there, “I get my teammates wide-open looks and stuff so they can score, too,” he said.

Clinton’s talents are used everywhere on the court. The Panthers put him at point guard, on the elbow, on the wing and down on the block “where he’s very good because, again, of his size, strength and athleticism,” Baumgardner said.

Clinton has honed an identity as a scorer over a relatively quick period of time as this is only his fourth year of competitive basketball. He began playing in eighth grade. The following year, he was Jackson County’s leading scorer as a mere freshman.

He’s gotten better each successive year to where he’s one of the top talents in the area.

He’s particularly proud of the strides he’s made as a shooter, notably with his one-dribble pull-ups.

If there’s a player from whom Clinton draws inspiration, it’s the Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook. As a kid, Clinton was a LeBron James fan, but as he got more into basketball and researched players, he was drawn to Westbrook’s play.

“Because he’s a dog,” Clinton said, “and he can get to the rim, and he can shoot a little bit. He can facilitate for others. I feel like that’s what I model my game after.”

With one season left in his high school career, Clinton hopes to win a Region Player of the Year award and set Jackson County’s single-game scoring record. He’s told its 55 points.

Meanwhile, college coaches are taking notice. Clinton recently picked up his first Division I offer, one from Charleston Southern.

“It was exciting,” Clinton said. “I never thought I’d get a D-I offer.”

Baumgardner said Clinton “is a pretty talented kid.”

“He’s got to do a lot for us,” he said, “and we ask a lot of him, and he’s doing his best.”

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