Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a seven-part series from The Flash Today covering the 11 members of the 2017 men’s basketball recruiting class at Tarleton State. This piece covers the signing of the highest-rated Rivals prospect ever to come to Tarleton straight out of high school, as well as a 6A district MVP ranked even higher by TexasHoops.com. The series concludes Tuesday with a closer look at the remaining five incoming freshmen.
By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (June 26, 2017) — Tarleton State is still in Division II, but you wouldn’t know it by its 2017 men’s basketball recruiting class.
There are two Rivals 3-star prospects among the 11 newcomers, one for the full four years and the other his final two. Then there is a prospect TexasHoops.com ranks 26 spots ahead of his Rivals-ranked new teammate.
“In my 20-plus years at Tarleton as a player and coach I cannot remember another 3-star Rivals recruit who we signed out of high school,” said Chris Reisman, associate head coach of the Texans.
Well, meet Clashon Gaffney, a multi-sport superstar in Texas Class 2A who accomplished more athletically the last three years than many entire high schools. Like five medals – three of them gold – at the last three UIL Track & Field State Meets. Or receiving interest from more than half a dozen “power-6 plus Notre Dame” football schools.
Or, of course, being rated a 3-star basketball prospect by Rivals.
“Clashon visited a few mid-major Division I schools in the fall and didn’t bite. Once we found out he was still available after the initial signing period ended in the fall, we worked him hard,” said Chris Reisman. “We had three different coaches on our staff go watch him play at different times including (head coach and university athletic director Lonn Reisman).”
Gaffney had his choice of sports in college after receiving high major football interest before his career at Clarksville High School was even half complete. But he is still best known statewide for his accomplishments in track and field. Just last month, he completed an exceedingly rare three-peat as a champion at the state meet in Austin, winning his third gold medal in 2A triple jump. He is also a two-time bronze medalist in the 2A long jump.
Gaffney is actually the second 3-star Rivals recruit to sign with Tarleton in 2017. It’s true he’s the first out of high school, but the class also includes 2015 Rival 3-star standout Corinthian Ramsey of Mansfield Summitt High School. He traversed the JUCO path and was a first-team 2015-16 All-Region XIV selection, leading Angelina College in Lufkin to a pair of 20-win seasons. (For a full report on Ramsey, CLICK HERE).
“I’m not sure if we’ve ever had two or more 3-star Rivals recruits at once,” said Chris Reisman. “I do know the last 3-star recruit we had was Mo Lee (also a two-year player after JUCO) and he was the best guard in the Lone Star Conference his senior season. If either one of those guys have the impact Mo did, I’ll be excited.”
All of Tarleton and Stephenville would be excited, because all Lee did in 2014-15 and 2015-16 was lead Tarleton to a pair of regional championships and Division II Elite Eights including a national semifinal appearance.
Gaffney appreciates the love from Rivals, but says he hasn’t let it go to his head.
“That’s pretty cool. It’s good to know those things and add to your accolades to one day look back on and enjoy,” said Gaffney of his Rivals rating. “But I have to stay humble and keep striving. If I stop working just because someone gave me three stars, then that’s all I’ll ever be. I don’t want to just maintain, I want to grow as a player with the possibility of making basketball a career.”
Gaffney may be the top highs school prospect Tarleton signed according to Rivals, but not everyone agrees. TexasHoops.com rates Gaffney No. 75 in the state, 26 spots behind No. 49 Preston Enloe of Lewisville Hebron. While Gaffney was dominating with averages of 19.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in one of the state’s smaller conferences, Enloe was busy earning Co-MVP honors in District 5-6A – the state’s largest conference for high schools with at least 2,150 students – with his 16 points and almost three 3-pointers per game.
“Playing 6A basketball really prepares you well because everybody has talent,” said Enloe. “(Coach) Mark Bishop has done a great job developing the Hebron program and the kids, so I was fortunate to be around a lot of great players who have helped me get where I am now.”
Chris Reisman believes the intense level of high school competition throughout the northern suburbs of Dallas, as well as quality AAU experience make Enloe a candidate to help immediately, and says Gaffney faces the same expectation from Tarleton coaches.
“Both have the ability to come in as true freshmen and make significant contributions. Preston reminds me a lot of Coleman Furst (now ‘Coach Furst’), except Preston is more of a true shooting guard and Coleman was a combo who was also highly ranked. Like Coleman, Preston is a super confident kid who doesn’t get rattled much and isn’t afraid to take big shots,” said Chris Reisman. “Preston can get hot in a hurry and before you know it he’s made a big impact in a game. He just has this bravado about him that you don’t see in many kids.”
Enloe caught the attention of several Division I mid-majors during a big AAU tournament last July.
“I picked up a lot of offers from there, like Middle Tennessee State, Texas State, Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Central Michigan, UNC-Greensboro…” he listed them off the top of his head, noting there were others. He was even contacted by high major programs at Arkansas, UT-El Paso and Air Force, and was wooed at the Division II level by Emporia State in Kansas.
“Tarleton was one of the few Division II schools that recruited me, but on my visit I was shocked by everything they had to offer and really felt like it was the place for me,” said Enloe.
Gaffney also had mid-major interest, primarily from Texas schools such as Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Lamar and others. He would have had much more in football, it seems, after Stanford, Penn State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor were listed by Rivals to have taken an interest by the end of his sophomore season.
“I chose basketball because I have a bigger passion for it. I like football, but I like basketball more. It’s more of a mental game and I like that,” Gaffney said. “My brother also had a chance to choose what he wanted to play in college because he could have played basketball, too, but he chose football.”
Roderick Gaffney, 28, knocked heads on the gridiron at Stephen F. Austin State University, a Division I-FCS program in Nacogdoches. But Clashon, also blessed with the Gaffney family athletic genes, will be dunking basketballs on the hardwood at Tarleton.
“The very first day of the spring contact period (both Reismans, father and son) and Coach Furst were all in his living room,” Chris Reisman said. “I think Clashon appreciated the fact we wanted him to be a Texan, and then he truly fell in love with the idea during his visit.”
Gaffney confirmed as much to The Flash Today.
“I chose Tarleton because they made me feel like I was a top priority recruit and because I like the coaching staff and the town,” he said. “It’s not too big, but it’s not too small, either. There is a family atmosphere and a winning tradition, which I’m accustomed to from playing at Clarksville.
“The main thing, though, is how much I feel like I can contribute to an already great program. That, and the way the coaches made my parents feel like they would take care of me, and I felt the same way. Plus my favorite color is purple, so I didn’t want to mess that up.”
While evaluating Gaffney, Chris Reisman was reminded of a certain past Texan dunk artist nicknamed ‘Viper’ by the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Clashon reminds me a lot of a taller Davene Carter,” he said, referencing the winner of the 2015 Dark Horse Dunker competition who played with the Globetrotters and landed a role on the reality TV show Dunk Kings. “Carter was 6-6 and 180 pounds out of high school, but Clashon is already well over 200 pounds and almost 6-8. Clashon also has a little more skill at this point in his career. Carter was a catch-and-finish dunker his first two years before adding to his game. Clashon already has some tools that make him an instant offensive threat in his first year here. He just has to come in and prove he has the same work ethic that we always got out of Carter.”
Gaffney says he will major in marketing at Tarleton, while Enloe plans to major in business and eventually specialize in finance, accounting or marketing. The Hebron standout said the Tarleton College of Business Administration played a major role in his decision to come to Stephenville.
“Academics are a big priority for me, I looked at that even before I looked at athletics,” said Enloe. “From what I’ve learned, the business program at Tarleton is great and has a really good history. Also, I knew a little bit already about Tarleton and that it was growing, but I was surprised on my visit to actually see how much it has grown. It’s a good feeling to know your university has a lot of history and tradition but is also still up and coming.”
Enloe already knows a handful of other Tarleton newcomers, but not Gaffney. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has proven again to be fertile recruiting ground, producing talented players who are acquainted from playing with and against each other in both high school and AAU.
“I’ve known some of them for a long time. Ryan Birt (from Plano West) and I have played against and with each other for about five years. And Sam Marshall (Coppell), I’ve known him and played against him for a long time,” Enloe said. “I also know Dexter Johnson (Duncanville) and Corinthian Ramsey (Mansfield Summit, Class of 2015).”
Gaffney says he is moving to Stephenville the week of July 4, and is looking forward to bonding with his new teammates.
“They’re bringing in a lot of new guys, so its an exciting time. I believe we’re going to do great things. I’m looking forward to buying in with them, especially the other freshmen who will be my teammates the next four years,” said Gaffney. “I’m ready to get there so we can establish a strong bond and learn everything we can about each other on the court and off.”
Gaffney has not decided yet if he will be a dual-sport athlete at Tarleton, but Texan roundballers have proven prolific on the jumping side of field events before. Collat Johnson is perhaps the best example, winning Division II national championships in high jump in 2000 and 2001. Carter, who received much fame for his theatrical slam dunks, reached nationals in high jump in 2015, and just this spring Chantz Chambers topped 30 points in his final game on the hardwood then reached nationals as a long jumper.
“It’s been talked about, but I’m not sure whether or not I’ll do that,” said Gaffney. “Basketball and keeping up with my classes are my top priorities, but I have always enjoyed the triple jump and long jump, so we’ll see.”
The uber athletic Gaffney describes himself simply as a “get the job done no matter how I have to do it,” type of player who is most comfortable on the defensive end. “I’m long and I can score, but I really have a knack for defense. I love having a strong presence on defense and that’s really my specialty. I prefer defense over offense any day.”
A defense-first mindset is always welcome at Tarleton, as Lonn Reisman has spent three decades using defense as the foundation for success. The Texans have plaques from the NCAA commemorating season-long statistic championships for leading the nation in (fewest) points allowed.
“That’s the biggest difference I see between Clashon and (Carter) is defense,” said Chris Reisman. “I think Clashon can be a big time shot blocker at this level. He could be really special.”
Enloe says his calling card’s are confidence in his marksmanship and energy all over the court.
“I feel like I can come off the bench and score, or do it from the start, either way. I am always confident I can hit a lot of shots and I try to provide a lot of energy for the team, on defense, too, not just on offense.”
Both players were immediately impressed by head coach Lonn Reisman, who has won 635 games in 29 seasons in Stephenville, and has captured four regional championships since joining the NCAA in 1995. His teams have reached the Division II playoffs 14 of the past 16 years.
Enloe first met the elder Reisman during his official visit to the Tarleton campus.
“Right away I thought he was a great guy who has a strong passion for the game of basketball, and that he loves his kids and his program,” Enloe said. “I can tell he really takes care of his players and develops them, which is what I’m really looking forward to.”
Gaffney remembers the enthusiasm Lonn Reisman brought into his home when the three coaches traveled to Clarksville to meet with the prospect and his family.
“He was pretty ecstatic when he came on the home visit. He was talking fast and seemed so excited about me. I could tell he meant business about having me in his program,” Gaffney recalls. “He’s a man of character, which I try to be. I feel like he truly wants the best out of me as a man and not just as a basketball player.
“Playing under a person like that is always a thrill and a blessing, because he’s not just a good man or a good leader or a winning coach, he’s all of those things,” Gaffney added. “Not everybody gets to play under a guy who can say he discovered somebody like Dennis Rodman, or who knows Roy Williams at North Carolina or who has spoke at the basketball hall of fame.
“I believe he can take me higher than I have ever thought I could go.”