St. Louis, Missouri
Sean-Michael Clancey leads the ACAC in scoring by a wide margin. Clancey has 265 points in his first 10 games – that’s nearly 1.5 times more than the second-placed scorer who just happen to be Hugo Cluysen, his own teammate.
Clancey commands the offensive half court, finding his jumper in tiny pockets of space, knocking it down at an efficient 47.4 per cent from the field through 10 games. Clancey has an indomitable will to win, capable of taking over games with his offensive prowess, and sealing games with his lockdown defense, averaging three steals a game. Wearing the #23 jersey, Clancey has a game that is reminiscent of the many greats to have donned that number in the professional game like LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
“Basketball has always been my first love,’’ said Clancey, whose upbringing in America had him caught in a geographic spider web of family ties.
Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Clancey moved with his mother to Las Vegas when he was young to help take care of his ailing grandmother. His father kept his job in St. Louis, which meant that Clancey was going between school years in Las Vegas to spending his summers in Missouri before graduating at Carter Ritter College Prep High School.
Basketball was the constant throughout the tumult of his youth.
“Pops always had a ball in my hand, whether it was a football or basketball… All the back and forth across the country, [basketball] was my getaway from everything so I didn’t have to think about my grandma being sick, and all that stuff,” said Clancey.
From there he went to Moberly Area Community College playing before transferring to Highland Community College in Freeport, Illinois where he met Markus Taylor-Knighten, who’s cousin Solon Ellis recruited the two of them to come play for NAIT.
From splitting time across the states of America, to the Junior College system, to ACAC basketball where he now stakes his game, Clancey has maintained a leveled head about the talents that he has fostered.
“I love what I’ve come into here in Edmonton, I wasn’t aware of what I was coming into, but having the opportunity to play ball again means everything, and I’m extremely happy to be here.”
Hugo gets buckets. Hugo gets dimes. Hugo plays with flair and style that is becoming more characteristic of the modern big man. Averaging 17 points, five rebounds and three assists per game for the Ooks, Cluysen has been a steadying force on the interior. He lights up defenders with spin moves in the post, surprising everyone in the gym but himself and his teammates when he leads the fast break and takes it the length of the court, finishing with a delicate euro-step to a finger roll layup.
Basketball was with Cluysen before Cluysen was with us in the world. Born to mother Agnes Cluysen, a professional basketball player for the French national team, and father who played professionally across several leagues in Europe.
Growing up in Reims, France, Cluysen entered the French Professional A league for CSP Limoges at age 14 before moving to play for JDA Dijon also in the Professional A league. Moving to Canada in 2017, Cluysen red-shirted for the University of Alberta Golden Bears basketball team. After receiving limited minutes in his second year, he’d had enough.
“Living so far away from my family, I just want to play and have fun,” said Cluysen.
A prior connection to the head coach Slav Kornik, who was working as an assistant coach at UofA at the time, made Cluysen’s decision an easy one to make.
“Slav coached me for two years, and I trust him, so I said I’m going to go with Slav, play at NAIT, and see where I can go from here,” said Cluysen.
Cluysen credits his mother for getting a basketball into his hands for the first time, but says that his father is his who he models his game sense after.
“My dad is a great coach, he has the best pedigree in basketball.”
Outside of basketball, Cluysen aspires to become a french teacher as well as see how far his basketball acumen can take him.
Los Angeles, Califnornia
While Markus Taylor-Knighten hasn’t suited up for the Ooks yet this year, he’s already had an impact on the look of the team. Literally. Taylor-Knighten is an individual of eclectic personality and passion with a taste for barbery. Before the Ooks’ home game against the King’s University Eagles, fellow international teammate Hugo Cluysen ran out for warm-up sporting a stylish modern fade cut courtesy of Taylor-Knighten. Markus has also given haircuts to teammates Sean-Michael Clancey, Will Pittman and Solon Ellis, keeping them game-day fresh. Clancey in particular is very excited for Taylor-Knighten to join the team in 2020.
“That’s my boy, he brings a lot to the table, a lot of energy, he’s an exciting player,” said Clancey.
“I’ve had a pretty great journey with basketball, I’ve seen a lot.” said Taylor-Knighten.
“I just hope to be able to use [basketball] to my advantage and give back to people in some way, give back to kids who come from where I came from and need guidance.”
Taylor-Knighten is anxious to get on the court with the NAIT Ooks and beyond that, has a whole-hearted energy for basketball.