February 26, 2008

Big Man In The Middle

Feb. 26, 2008

By Charles Bare
Special to GoHolyCross.com

When Tim Clifford first came to Holy Cross four years ago, few would have predicted the success he would eventually have on the hardwood. During his freshman season, Clifford played in 29 of the Crusader's 32 games, but totaled just 79 points in 261 minutes of action. Even tough he did not see much time on the court, he did learn a number of things which would help him down the road.

"I did not get to play a lot in the games my freshman year, but I was able to learn from guys like Nate Lufkin and John Hurley, and develop my game in practice," said Clifford. "I also watched a lot of film of the great big men at Holy Cross who came before me. Those things guided my career, and put me on the right track."

Clifford did show signs of his potential as a freshman, including a 13-point, 13-rebound performance at American when Lufkin was out due to injury. Early in his sophomore season, he began to earn more playing time, and scored 21 points in a 64-41 victory over Brown. But it was later that season when Clifford really began to establish himself as one of the top big men in the Patriot League.

On Jan. 25, 2006, Clifford took over as the starting center for the Crusaders, and scored 27 points as Holy Cross downed American 74-63. Starting the final 14 contests of the season, he went on to average 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds down the stretch, while making 54.9 percent of his field goal attempts.

Clifford's play continued to improve as a junior, when he earned second team All-Patriot League honors after finishing the season ranked third on the team in scoring (11.7 points per game) and fourth in rebounding (4.6 boards per game). He was a key part of the Crusaders' run to the Patriot League Tournament title, and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2003.

Now as a senior captain, Clifford has stepped up his play even more, despite becoming the focal point of opposing team's defenses. Even though he has faced constant double- and triple-teaming, Clifford leads the team with an average of 17.7 points per game. No Holy Cross player has averaged that many points over an entire season since Rob Feaster put up 25.0 points per game as a senior in 1994-1995. Clifford has also become the 44th player in school history to score over 1,000 career points, and currently stands in 24th place on the all-time Holy Cross scoring list with 1,184 points.

But Clifford's presence is just as important to the Crusaders on the defensive end of the floor. Earlier this year, he broke Lufkin's school career record for blocked shots. Clifford currently has 203 blocks of the course of his four years, and is only the third player in Patriot League history to reach the 200-block plateau.

Even with all of the big numbers he has put up, Clifford tends not to pay much attention to statistics.

"The numbers are all fun to look at, but I do not think about it too much," said Clifford. "I try to focus on the things we have accomplished as a team."

And during his time in Worcester, the Crusaders have accomplished quite a bit. Throughout his four years, Clifford has helped lead the team to an overall record of 85-39. The 85 total victories during that time are the most by Holy Cross in a four-year span since the Crusaders went 85-31 from 1974-1978. Among those 85 wins are a number of fond memories for the senior.

"I am proud of playing on a team that won a game in the NIT, and being on last year's team that won the Patriot League title and played in the NCAA Tournament," said Clifford. "And we still hope to accomplish a lot this year. I try to take it from a real team perspective. I have been on some great teams and played with some great players, and I am really fortunate for that."