By Zachary Flynn

Photo by Railene Hooper

In his fifth and final year with the Ooks, Samson Cleare made sure to leave his mark on the team and on the ACAC Men’s Basketball league before he leaves.

The NAIT Ooks’ starting center led the ACAC in total rebounds for the 2018- 19 season with 223 rebounds. Cleare’s efforts also secured his name in Ook history as NAIT’s all-time leading rebounder. He passed Sebastian Cava’s previous record of 514 on February 8, 2019.

Samson said his spatial awareness and positioning on the court have been the key factors that helped him surpass the record. While the Ooks didn’t make provincials this year, Cleare has still found success with the team. In the 2015/16 season, he was a part of the NAIT Ooks team that brought home the CCAA Men’s Basketball national championship.

Cleare said he’s been lucky to have the support of everyone around him, from the players to the coaches – and his wife, too. Midway through the 2017-18 season, his wife gave birth to his first child.

“It ain’t easy to have a child during the middle of the season and going to school and going to work and coming to practice,” said Cleare.

Cleare describes his team as more of a family than anything. He says that when he had his first child, the team was incredibly supportive. He also said that his teammates and being able to play the sport that he loves have helped him get through tough times that come up.

“Every day in practice, off and on the court, [they’re] keeping me focused, keeping me grounded,” said Cleare. “Whenever I have off-days, they always keep telling me ‘Just keep rebounding.’ Do what you do best.”

Being a fifth-year player on the team, he’s seen players come and go. This season, Cleare is the only fifth-year player on the team and has taken on more of a leadership role this year. Cleare says that he takes pride in the work he does with the team.

“It always feels good to come and put on that jersey – the practice jersey, home jersey, away jersey – and give it all you got as an Ook. I took pride in it,” he said. “It’s something I take pride in every single day.”

Cleare says that while he doesn’t exactly know where his basketball career is headed, he’s keeping his options open and is optimistic. And who knows – he might be back as an assistant coach sometime soon