Despite being overlooked, Chris Clemons is right home at Campbell
Five-foot-9 dynamo point guard Chris Clemons is garnering unprecedented national exposure for the Campbell basketball team. In fact, it is fair to say no person has ever attracted such attention for the university of 6,000 students in Buies Creek.
The school’s marketing motto is “The Creek is Rising,” and Clemons’ run up the career NCAA basketball scoring chart has the school’s water level at an all-time high. The nation’s leading scorer this season now ranks sixth in Division I with 3,074 career points. He was averaging 30.1 points per game this season as of Tuesday.
Highlights from every Campbell game now appear on ESPN’s nightly SportsCenter. Clemons has been showcased twice on Scott Van Pelt’s two-minute ESPN “best thing I’ve seen today” segment.
“To buy a 30-second commercial on ESPN costs thousands (of dollars),” says Chris Hemeyer, Campbell’s director of broadcasting and digital marketing. “To have two minutes (cost free), it’s priceless.”
A large part of Clemons being a trailblazer for Campbell in gaining national publicity is due to the times in which he is performing.
Television was not around when Campbell alum and playwright Paul Green won the 1927 Pulitzer Prize in drama for “In Abraham’s Bosom.” Social media did not exist when Campbell alums, brothers Gaylord and Jim Perry, pitched in the major leagues.
Campbell’s famous summer basketball camp, which ran for three decades beginning in 1956, attracted such luminary guests as coach John Wooden and players Pete Maravich and Michael Jordan. Coaches and players across the country knew of Campbell and Buies Creek because of the camp.
Now Clemons is introducing the school to a national audience of basketball fans, thanks in large part to expanded TV coverage at all levels of college basketball and an explosion of social media platforms that make his highlights available to thousands of fans.
Clemons opened this season with a 44-point, eight-rebound, four-assist effort against UNC Wilmington. His spectacular dunk against Austin Peay State in Jamaica went viral on CBSSports.net on the island. Then he rang up 45 points and eight rebounds in a loss at Georgetown.
What followed was intense cable TV coverage for Clemons and Campbell. His 19-point game at Miami was shown on FoxSports South before a pair of ESPU telecasts in which he scored 34 points against Winthrop and 27 against High Point.
The game that further propelled Clemons and his game into national prominence came on Jan. 30 at Radford, the league’s first-place team at the time. His 30-footer at the buzzer gave Campbell a 68-67 win and capped a 39-point, six-rebound showing.
Clemons, who admittedly does not like to watch himself on TV, joined his teammates on the bus ride back from Virginia in watching the game-winning basket over and over again on ESPN.
An agreement by the Big South Conference made video of the shot easily available to ESPN. Prior to this season, the Big South opted to show all games of its member programs on ESPN+, a video streaming site. That allows ESPN to simply pluck video from the site.
Clemons arrival at Campbell was a matter of perfect timing. At the same time, Campbell hired Evan Budrovich, a social media whiz from California, to assist Hemeyer in broadcasting and digital media.
“He took our social media to the next level because he was 24, not 38 like I was at the time,” Hemeyer says.
When Clemons, who starred at Millbrook High School, recently passed the 3,000-point career scoring mark, Budrovich produced a highlight video with graphics to the music of the “Titantic.” Now, any video Campbell posts on the internet gets hundreds of thousands of views.
Public relations offices once worked endlessly to get their product out in mainstream media. Now that can be accomplished by disseminating vast amounts of information with a few keystrokes on a laptop.
No one knows more about what that kind of exposure does for the Campbell basketball program than coach Kevin McGeehan. When he arrived in 2013, McGeehan said he had to spell out to recruits that Campbell was located 10 miles off I-95, 40 miles from Raleigh and another 35 from Fayetteville.
“Certainly, every time we talk to a recruit and mention our school, there is more recognition,” McGeehan says. “They usually know Chris’s name and that he’s a highlight machine and a big scorer and have seen us. That helps.”
So, if you cannot make it to Buies Creek for Saturday’s showdown against Radford in the regular-season finale, that’s OK. Highlights are certain to be shown on ESPN.