Vanguard boys basketball's Nique Clifford understands the value of community

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

It's easy to pick out Vanguard basketball star Nique Clifford when he's on the court. He stands taller than most - and his coach, Joe Wetters, thinks he's still growing - and he carries himself with a smooth confidence when playing the game.

Rightfully so.

He's highly skilled as evidenced by a scholarship opportunity to play basketball for the University of Colorado as well as his 24.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and six assists per game.

The numbers and highlights earned him Gatorade Player of the Year honors (the first athlete at Vanguard to win the award) as well as a selection as the Class 3A boys basketball Player of the Year.

But Clifford isn't defined by what he can do on the basketball court. In order to get a true sense of who he is, it's important to look at what he's doing when he's not getting buckets.

"He's such a community person, a relationship-based person," Wetters said. "He really extends himself out into the school community. You can see him on any random Saturday morning at a YMCA game for a 7-year-old kid that he knows or at someone else's football game on a Friday night."

That attitude comes from his family background. His parents taught him very early that it's important to respect others and build goodwill in his community no matter if he's playing basketball or taking part in any other activity.

He took the lesson to heart and tries to live up to that message every opportunity he gets.

"I care about others and I like helping others," Clifford said. "A lot of people don't know that I've volunteered at the hospital the last three summers. I've done other volunteer work at teen court and things like that. I don't think people expect it. They don't think a (perceived) dumb jock can do those kinds of things."

It's not something he does for show, but it has helped when it comes to pursuing basketball beyond high school.

Clifford received offers from Colorado, Colorado State, Air Force, the University of Denver and Stanford. On top of his play on the court, he was sought after because of his educational desires as well as his reputation as a good kid.

"You have to have guys that aren't going to cause trouble on the team," Clifford said. "(Coach Tad Boyle) had to do his research on me like I had to do my research on him. There are a lot of kids out there who are very talented when it comes to basketball but they can cause trouble."

Clifford doesn't fit that mold because his upbringing wouldn't allow it. He wants to leave his community a better place than he found it just like he'll leave Vanguard a better school and basketball program than when he found it, including helping the Coursers reach the 3A state title game in 2019.

"His parents chose this high academic path for him when he was little," Wetters said. "His legacy is that hard work and extra discipline can get you through a high-academic school and still excel in athletics if that's something you want. The chances and the opportunities are still out there."

Clifford saw that opportunity and grabbed it. And he made sure he could do as much good as possible along the way.

He's trying to make himself a better person than he is a basketball player. Anyone who has seen him play basketball understands that it's a task that will be much easier said than done.

MAnual Vanguard boys basketball

(David Harvey/ImageProPhotography.com)