by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk River basketball coach had an easy time pinpointing what he likes best about Clay Elrod. “I like that he is a sophomore,” Randy Klasen grinned. “And I have him for two more years.”
Elrod, who’s technically a post player but scores more like a guard, averaged 18.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, leading the team in both, and was just as good against strong opponents as mediocre ones.
“He is real competitive, he plays hard all the time, and he likes to have the ball at the end of a close game,” said Klasen. “He averaged 18 points even though he does not have a single post move and has to find other ways to score.”
Klasen he’d have to go back to Matt Annen in 2001-02 for a soph this productive, and knows what he’s seen is just Elrod scratching the surface.
“He’s going to get better and better.”
The 6-foot-5, 175-pound center shot 34 percent on three’s (30-for-87) and 57 percent on two’s, along with 80 percent at the line (122-for-153). Klasen said As a freshman, Elrod notched 125 points and 51 rebounds off the bench. With 490 points this year, Elrod will enter his junior year with 615.
Elrod tallied about 15 points per game –as an off-guard – for the TC Force, his su mmer team.
“I felt like I really worked hard over the summer, and just expected to be one of those ‘role’ players (this season). I played with the upperclassmen last year and they are a great group of guys. I was thinking I would just let them run the show and I would fit in wherever I could help the team.”
Elrod helped more than anticipated on an Elk team that was competitive every game and finished 14-13.
“I just had a great time playing with the seniors. Those guys made me a better man, and influenced me a lot, not just on the court but in life.”
Low post is probably not his natural slot but he improvised. “I have no post moves. None whatsoever. I will be working on that in the off-season,” said Elrod.
Instead he twisted and slashed against bigger posts and was the Elks’ second-leading 3-point shooter (behind Tucker Morrell). He hit 16 ppg through December and the Elks started running more screen plays for him. Elrod had 26-point bursts in close wins over Armstrong and Maple Grove and hit the last-second game-winner in the latter on a rebound shot. He notched 23 in a 67-62 loss to No. 4 ranked Osseo, and 20 in the 67-64 playoff loss to Bemidji.
Klasen allows that Elrod’s offense is “ahead of his defense,” but expects that will improve.
In football, Elrod started at outside linebacker on a 7-1 sophomore team and was backup quarterback. He’s pondering joining the track team.
Next year’s Elrs could be a contender, with the top scorers (Elrod and Porter Morrell) back along with rugged sixth man Bryan Edwards. “It’s up to us,” Elrod said. “It depends on what everybody does in the off-season.”
Elrod’s favorite athlete is Tim Tebow, a pastor’s son like himself. “Tim has shown what it is like to be a man of faith, and I think that’s really cool. You see him putting Bible verses on his eyeblack and stuff like that.”
Elrod jotted his favorite verse on his shoes two years back, Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
THE ELROD SCORECARD
Personal file – Age: 16 … Family: parents Tim and Jolene; brothers Chase, 13, and Cole, 10; sister Carli, 7 … Sports: football, basketball … Academics: B average
Favorite stuff – Class: U.S. history … TV show: Sports Center … Movies: “Tommy Boy,” “Remember the Titans” … Music: The Maine (rock band) and Drake (rap) … Food: Chipolte fare, especially chicken burrito extra rice … Drink: Gatorade fruitpunch … Team: Iowa State teams (two uncles played football there) … Athlete: Tim Tebow … Reading: Sports Illustrated … Kickbacks: golf, travel, long walks on beach … Place he’d like to visit: Bahamas … Ambition: business field