Willie Hope, III
Sports & Rec. Editor
In his first three years in the Messiah basketball program, Joshua Clippinger has experienced a lot.
Clippinger, the only player on the team who has been in the program for four years, only played 24 minutes his freshman year. That year, the team had one of the best starts in program history at 13-0. Since then, Clippinger has started in almost every game he’s played in, but the Falcons have not made the playoffs. “This program has taught me a lot about perseverance,” says Clippinger.
Though basketball hasn’t always provided the best results, the senior captain has seen the bigger picture. “I think [the program] has taught me a lot about leadership, how to try to get the best out of my teammates, how to try to create a brotherhood.”
This year as a captain, Clippinger has tried to create that brotherhood using the leadership skills he was taught in the program.
Clippinger explains, “I wanted to be a leader like Taylor Groff and Brad Bolen. Those guys took me under their wings when I was a freshman. Taylor was really intense on the court and had a lot of fun. Brad was just a really hard worker and persevered through a lot of stuff.”
Groff and Bolen were seniors on the team during Clippinger’s freshman year, and both were outstanding players. Other players who have been through the program, such as David Fernandez-Bravo and Jeremiah Runkle, have also helped Clippinger grow on and off the court.
“I try to emulate Jeremiah Runkle and David Fernandez and their general care for everyone on the team. They had a heart for everyone.”
This year especially, fans of Messiah basketball can see all of these elements in Clippinger’s game and leadership.
On the court, Clippinger has certainly emulated Groff’s intensity in the way he battles on the inside. Clippinger has won the program’s award for the hardest worker in both his sophomore and junior seasons, but this year, something changed that helped Clippinger elevate his game even more.
“There was a point I figured out I had to reshape the way I was training. I had a lot of skills that weren’t translating onto the court,” admits Clippinger. “It was a mental issue rather than a physical issue.”
Clippinger went to Jeff Hoyt, the physical psychologist on campus, to help unlock pieces of his game. And as he wanted to do, Clippinger changed the way he trained: “I put more fun into it. I also put more visualization into it to become more game-like.”
On top of all the work he did, Clippinger also saw a change in his faith on the court.
“I never thought about God being present when I was on the court until this season,” Clippinger says. “It’s given me a lot of confidence, a quiet confidence that He’s there and I can be myself out on the court and not have to worry about whether I perform well or not. As long as I’m giving my best, that’s all that He requires.”
The senior forward also brought scripture into training, specifically one of his biblical role models, David. But why David?
“He had complete confidence in God going out before him and winning victories before he was even in battle, knowing the strength God has compared to what people think,” Clippinger explains. “I can relate to David because he was the runt of his family, yet was picked to be king. When I was growing up, I was always the skinny kid, the kid that people counted out.”
Clippinger’s special bond with David in the Bible has helped him become a leader and the player on the court he has wanted to be. He is now one of the reasons why the basketball team is in contention for their first playoff berth in three years. Clippinger’s ultimate goal this year is helping his team make it to the MAC playoffs and hopefully win a MAC Commonwealth championship.
“It would mean everything to me to lead my team to the playoffs as a senior,” Clippinger explains. “I dreamed of being on a team at Messiah that made the playoffs and NCAA Tournament annually. Although that hasn’t happened, it would make me feel good about the hardship that I endured through the past two seasons, getting to the end and finishing strong.”
By the time this issue is printed, Clippinger and the men’s basketball team will hopefully be heading to the playoffs and fulfilling Clippinger’s ambitions. But if not, Clippinger has gained much more in his four years at Messiah.
“What I’ll miss most about Messiah is the guys, the brotherhood, some of the friendships I made,” Clippinger says. So if you haven’t seen Clippinger play yet, go see the senior who has grown to be his own man on and off the court.