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Sky high: Clanton signs with LBWCC
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Eastside High, especially recently, is notorious for producing gifted athletes.

And Wednesday afternoon proved to be no exception, as yet another Eagle joined the list of student-athletes completing at the next level.

Artis Clanton signed an athletic scholarship to play basketball for the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College Saints come next season.

"It's real special," Clanton said. "For me to sign a scholarship it's like I'm capping off (all) my years in school; it's very exciting to me."

Last week Eastside's Taylor Smith signed a golf scholarship with Georgia College. One year earlier Torrio Cook, 2006-2007 All-County Player of the Year, signed with Truett-McConnell College. And everyone knows what Catherine Lee has been doing as a freshman for the Georgia State University softball team.

But now it's Clanton's time to shine. Based on his versatility, he should see significant playing time at LBWCC.

Located in Andalusia, Ala., the Saints are among the Alabama Community College Conference. They finished eighth in conference play last season with an overall record of 6-23 (5-11 South).

"I think I'll be able to play instantly and contribute," Clanton said. "I feel like I'll get some minutes there and grow and continue to work on my skills and my game."

During his two years as a member of the Eastside varsity squad, Clanton enjoyed much success, earning consecutive nods to the All-County Boys Basketball Team.

"The thing I'll miss most about him is how most of the time he stepped on the floor - in practice and games - everybody that was around him knew that he had to really have a good day and a good game to give us the best chance at winning," said Eastside coach Michael Gerald. "I think everybody knew that he was our best player."

As a junior, Clanton averaged 14.1 points per game. In addition, he averaged 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Clanton improved in every category during his senior campaign, averaging 15.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.

From a team perspective, his fondest memory was hitting the game-winning shot against Rockdale County during a 38-37 victory on Jan. 22. His career-best of 26 points came against Rockdale County at home.

His abilities come as no surprise to some, as athletics run deep in the Clanton household. His cousin, former Duke standout Shelden Williams, currently plays for the Sacramento Kings after being traded from the Hawks in the deal that brought Mike Bibby to Atlanta.

Clanton remains in contact with Williams, and even got to watch him practice with the Hawks before he was traded.

"Last summer he took me to a couple of their practices," Clanton said, "so I got to meet a lot of players and see how they looked. It really opened up my eyes a lot to see what I had to do.

"He's always cool to hang out with," he added. "He showed me around their facility, and it was a real eye-opener."

Williams' younger brother, Quincy, is a member of the North Texas men's basketball team and is expected to be selected in the NBA draft this summer.

Although several colleges expressed interest in Clanton, it was LBWCC who showed the most. According to Clanton, who is from Indiana, the most difficult transition will be getting accustomed to an entirely different team.

"Once I overcome that then I'll be alright," he said. "Even though I'm going on to something bigger, everything will be missed."

For Gerald, it's Clanton's sheer presence around him and the team that he'll miss above all else.

"It's not even just him maturing on the basketball court," Gerald said. "I saw him mature as a young person, and he took on that responsibility of being a team leader. He just grasped it and did a good job of accepting it.

"(For) some people it's hard for them to accept that role - being the person that everybody is going to look to for answers," he added, "and sometimes the pressure is too great. So, I'm just tickled to death that he was able to understand the role was expected of him. I'm just elated; it's a real happy day to see your kids have the opportunity like this."

Though inking with the Saints, the grounded Clanton is fully aware that his game still needs imporvement, starting with his ball handling skills, especially since he is being converted from a power forward to a guard.

"I need to get that up," Clanton acknowledged. "I struggled in that area and I need to continue to focus on my shot."

And Clanton will have the chance this summer to develop his skills even further.

"He has the opportunity to come in the gym everyday just like he was coming back next year," Gerald said. "I want him to be as prepared as possible, and so whatever he needs to do we're going to do it."