Chris Clemons, Campbell’s sensational 5-foot-9 point guard, has positioned himself among the nation’s leading scorers by averaging 24.4 points per outing. Now he is moving into rarefied air with a streak of double-figure scoring games that has reached 71 late in his junior season.
Should Clemons remain healthy and elect to return for his senior season, he could chase down and challenge the NCAA record 115 consecutive double-figure scoring games set by La Salle’s Lionel Simmons from 1987 to 1990.
In so doing, Clemons, whose team plays High Point Saturday night, would have a leg up on perhaps the most treasured and untouchable record in ACC basketball history. Jeff Mullins, an All-American forward for Duke from 1962 to 1964, scored in double figures in every one of his 86 games for the Blue Devils.
Part of what makes Mullins’ record so unreachable in the ACC is that the top-level players such as Duke freshman Marvin Bagley no longer stick around to play that many games. Bagley is likely to take his game to the NBA next season, having played about 40 games of college basketball.
So, it generally will fall to a player at the mid-major level of college basketball, someone like Clemons, to challenge the national record.
Play with confidence
Longevity is only one component to stringing together a double-figure scoring streak. Remaining healthy, having the ability to score in different ways, dealing with varying defenses designed to stop you from scoring, and avoiding off nights shooting all factor into building a streak.
“One of the most obvious things,” says N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts, “is you’ve got to play with tremendous confidence to do that. When you’re scoring in double figures every night, you’re the focal point of a lot of defenses. If you can stack (double-figure scoring) games on top of each other, you’re a really good basketball player.”
Mullins says his streak had much to do with playing at Duke under coach Vic Bubas, who installed a fast-paced offense during his 10 seasons with the Blue Devils. In addition to visiting Duke during his recruiting process as a high school senior in Lexington, Ky., Mullins also visited Maryland and knew of the plodding offensive style of its coach, Bud Millikan.
“Well, if we get athletes like you we will (play faster),” Mullins recalls Millikan saying. “I knew that would never happen.”
At Duke, Mullins says he also benefited from the lack of game planning and sophisticated defenses designed in today’s games to contain, if not shut down, an opposing team’s top scorer. Mullins said he could recall watching videotape of an opponent at no other time than prior to Duke’s NCAA tournament appearances in 1963 and 1964.
Mullins streak was only in jeopardy of being broken once, a 10-point outing on 5-of-10 shooting against Clemson early in his senior season. Mullins says Clemson frustrated him by employing a box-and-one defense throughout the game, even late in the 23-point Duke victory.
Injury stopped Thompson
There have been a few near-misses over the years in the challenge to Mullins’ ACC record.
N.C. State’s Rodney Monroe could have hit double figures in every one of his 94 career games from 1988 to 1991, except for a 9-point outing against UNC Asheville early in his junior season. Rodney Rogers came close to scoring in double figures in each of his 89 games at Wake Forest from 1991-1993, save for the three games in which he scored 9 points in each.
Only an injury prevented N.C. State great David Thompson from scoring in double figures in each of his 86-game college career from 1973 to 1975. He scored 8 points against Pittsburgh in the 1974 NCAA East Regional when he famously left the game with a head injury midway through the first half and did not return to action.
The common denominator with Mullins and the close calls of Monroe, Rogers and Thompson is that each played at least three seasons in college.
Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young currently leads the nation in scoring with an average of 30 points per game. Barring injury, he seems certain to hit double figures in every game of his career, which is equally certain to last only one season before he departs for the NBA.
That leaves the chase for the national double-figure scoring record to a mid-major player like Clemons, whose prolonged career and scoring acumen allow him to chase such a milestone.