Elijah Clarance grew up and first picked up basketball in Malmoe before leaving to USA at the age of 16. Prior to committment to Illinois State he attended St. Maria Goretti high school. He had his last national team experience before departure to States which made it even more difficult to follow his development from the other side of the ocean. Past summer Swedish guard reminded about himself with authority by dominating FIBA European U20 Championship which took place in Germany where he was unstoppable and received top scorer honors. Shortly after this international breakout Clarance made a decision to turn pro, hired an agent and signed pro contract with Fraport Skyliners.
In our preseason rundown on the most notable U22 prospects in competitions organized by Euroleague basketball I wrote about Clarance situation:
“Word was already during the astonishing FIBA U20 Europe that Elijah may turn pro very soon. Personally I was really surprised that he didn’t end up in better situation (can’t imagine more apprioprate fit than ABA Liga team). Fraport backcourt is quite loaded (even considering their multiguard lineups) and basically it is some kind of two-way contract. Playing time is always appreciated but how much can you polish your game playing in German 3rd tier and just practising with BBL? Moreover the rule obliges Clarance after college dropout to be auto eligible for NBA draft already upcoming season. Being drafted from there happened probably only in Dirk Nowitzki case. Even crazy numbers may not convince NBA executives as Karim Jallow who has offensive liability to his game was scoring nearby 20 ppg in this level of competition. Let’s just hope that somehow Swedish guard finds a way to get proficient minutes with first team quickly….”
Elijah picked up in Pro B where he left off at FIBA U20s. He exploded for few big dunks in season opener and scored 38 points in 55 minutes during the first two games. He just had one bad game down the road so far and then was sidelined with relocated finger for short time. As of now, his input in Fraport main team is little to none. He appeared just once in Eurocup when team was down by big margin.
Elijah is living proof that basketball can be a ticket to get out from tough circumstances and have better life. He seems to play with as much poise as anyone. When asked by us lately about this in the interview he answered:
“It is something I am working on as a basketball player and I’ve heard from my coaches since I started playing that my passion and intensity has always been there.”
Definitely his relentless motor and competitiveness cannot be teached and possibly make a difference while compared to others with likewise tools or just when it comes to overcoming obstacles down the road. He always seems mentally locked in on the court, has cold blood and can infect others with his warrior attitude.
Clarance is a super powerful driver with strong frame who doesn’t have to call teammates for a ball screen. He doesn’t have the sharpest handles but can sporadically put his man on skates. His athleticism is rare even for US standards as he possess neverending Russell Westbrook type of energy. He even keeps making backdoor cuts without the ball which is unusual for ball hog type of player. Swedish talent can break any defense apart thanks to his explosiveness even if there is very little open space. Moreover he literally never stops attacking, goes all in and gets great elevation which allows him to posterize opponents on a daily basis. This combined with confidence and ability to play through contact helps to score in extremely difficult settings. And then he has enough fuel left in the tank to be at least honest defender with chance to be more impactful on that end given ok length, quick hand & feet, will to dive for a loose balls and containing dribble drives with his chest.
Definitely a key to unlock the penetration lanes. While he doesn’t struggle at all to create separation, the accuracy of his pull up game is not great yet. Also sometimes amount of space that he possess to get it off is due to defenders making one step back as they simply cannot keep pace with Elijah while pressing and this type of defense often causes less damage. If Clarance’s stroke was as good as his ability to get downhill he could be already close to the NBA roster. This will most likely never happen but the better it gets the more “pick your poison” type of situation it will be for his opponents and this would simply maximize his biggest asset. By the way FT numbers are still not satisfying which is very important matter for someone drawing so much fouls.
Elijah can share the ball off the dribble but still gets the tunnel vision. However he may still not do this enough and as precisely as he should. For now he is a combo guard who may be a bit closer to the microwave scorer than leader on the court who sets the tone for entire team. Unless he becomes absolutely elite offensive player so you can just build system around him, he may be more useful coming off the bench as a volume scorer while making transition to higher level. Typically for players with superior speed he relies on it in huge degree and any kind of pace shifting is appreciated moving forward. Same with refining decision making process which will reduce TO numbers as well as pick & roll game.
OBSERVATION FROM THE GAME THAT WE ATTENDED
Elijah is a wow player for Pro B standards who can bring oohs and aahs by the crowd even in away game. His role is basically the same as at U20 championship. He is level above the competition excluding foreigners and plays with extremely high usage. Only solid difference is being member of title contender but he has winner mentality anyway. However it was hard to notice any improvement regarding the things mentioned in the paragraph above. There are some extenuating circumstances such as being on a new team, playing pro for the first time or coming back from minor finger injury. Moreover it’s been just three months since tournament in Chemnitz but if after next quarter of the year it looks the same, it will be much more hard to believe he can get enough polish and reliability to to play good minutes with Fraport later in the season.
Elijah is a player who has ways to go but also possess intangibles and god given abilities which doesn’t allow to stay indifferent towards him for evaluators. He may get some workouts with NBA teams but hard to imagine him having any serious draft chances with little attention to the level he plays in. Passport can appear to be very useful asset down the road but actually he seems like a guy suitable for playing in G League given his athletic abilities and somewhat American style. Maybe it is something that would make more sense for him as it may slowly becoming a trend regarding two European players selected last weeks straight from Serbia and France. He could thrive more in that environment and with appropriate circumstances plus further development fight for a spot. Anyway more than anything learning to fit in while he is not number 1 offensive option will be crucial to settle down where he could possibly belong.