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The Rafters, Class of 2011: Clarence Gilbert

Clarence Gilbert (1998-02)

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 21: Clarence Gilbert #4 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates the win over the UCLA Bruins during the West Regional Semifinal Game of the 2002 NCAA Basketball Tournament on March 21, 2002 at Compaq Center in San Jose, California. The Tigers won 82-73. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

1998-99: 4.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.1 APG
1999-00: 13.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.3 APG
2000-01: 16.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.5 APG
2001-02: 17.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.2 APG

In Mizzou’s recent history, no player has had a greater flair for the dramatic than Clarence Gilbert, a 6’2" guard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, famed for his pit bull intensity and freewheeling shot selection. What’s your favorite Gilbert moment? The night in his sophomore year when he made five of seven three-point shots and scored 24 points to lead Mizzou to an upset of Illinois? Or a month later when he went seven of ten from beyond the arc on his way to 27 points in an 81-59 rout of seventh-ranked Kansas? How about the afternoon he took a head-spinning 36 shots in a four-overtime victory over Iowa State? Or the night he drilled a 17-footer at the buzzer to beat Georgia in the NCAA Tournament? There was the 2001 Guardians Classic tournament where Gilbert won MVP honors after leading Mizzou from eleven points down with 2:15 to play to beat Iowa in the championship game. And there was the day in Colorado when he sank twelve three-pointers against the Buffs. Add it all together and you get a sensational career that saw Gilbert contribute to four NCAA Tournament teams and score 1,685 points, eighth most in Missouri history.

Michael Atchison: It’s hard to remember the days when Clarence Gilbert was regarded as a defense-first ball hawk. But that was his role as a freshman under Norm Stewart. He recorded nearly as many steals (43) as made shots (45). Things would change.

In his career, Clarence Gilbert attempted more shots than Steve Stipanovich, Anthony Peeler or Melvin Booker. Indeed, he attempted more shots than any Tiger other than Derrick Chievous and Doug Smith. And though the numbers say that Clarence wasn’t a great shooter – he made 37.6% of his attempts – he had a way of making every shot seem memorable. Jeff Boschee remembers the night he crawled inside of Clarence’s uniform only to see him drop bombs on Kansas anyway. Georgia remembers the seventeen-footer that knocked them out of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. Even the misses seem memorable. There was his crushing final game, in the Elite Eight against Oklahoma, when Gilbert made just one of sixteen from the field. There was the day he missed twenty-four shots against Iowa State and still scored 43 points. “You can’t stop (shooting),” Clarence said. “I don’t care if you miss ten. You might make eleven, you might make twelve.”

You must take the shot because you might make the shot. Those are the words that sum up the man.

Still, despite his I-don’t-wanna-be-tamed-style, Gilbert evolved into just the kind of leader the Tigers needed. As a senior, when it became clear that the team had no other defensive option at the point, Clarence slid over from his natural spot on the wing and steadied a ship on the verge of sinking. He didn’t exactly sacrifice his offense (there was the day when he made twelve three-pointers against Colorado), but he didn’t just shoot for the sake of shooting anymore. And he helped the Tigers match their best-ever NCAA Tournament performance with wins over Miami, Ohio State and UCLA.

People like to say that Clarence could shoot you into a game or shoot you out of it. But because of all the ones that fell, Clarence has shot himself into the Rafters.