This has been a summer of basketball for Courtney Clasen, and a busy one, at that.
A player of unquestioned athleticism, Clasen has been known for being more of an athlete who plays basketball than a basketball player. So, this summer she went about working on that by playing for an Amateur Athletic Union team, the Long Island Renegades, and seeing the larger basketball world outside of Suffolk County. An intensive schedule saw the Renegades play close to 30 games (including 13 this past week) while traveling around the country and playing in places like Washington, D.C., Chicago and Orlando.
That’s a lot of basketball, and it was beneficial to the Shoreham-Wading River High School senior.
“It was great,” Clasen said. “It really helped me improve.”
Perhaps just as importantly, Clasen said the experience gave her something she had been lacking: confidence.
Asked how much she has improved over the past year, Clasen replied: “I don’t know if it’s I’m a better player, it’s just the confidence. I think a lot of it has to do with the confidence.”
Clasen was exuding confidence Wednesday night when, in a clash of two teams tied for first place on the final night of the Town of Brookhaven Summer League regular season, she led Shoreham-Wading River past Sayville, 43-30. The Wildcats played what their coach, Adam Lievre, said was probably the best game they played all summer, and Clasen, well, she was her typical, energetic self, seemingly everywhere at once, stealing a pass here, blocking a shot there, flying toward the basket here.
“You know what you’re going to get out of her day in and day out,” said Lievre, whose 8-2 team is the league’s defending small school champion. “You know she’s going to get her rebounds, she’s going to get some blocks, she’s going to get some steals, she’s going to hit some layups. She brings everything to the game and she always brings everything to the game.”
It’s hard to confine Clasen to one position; she can play them all, and she is moved around a lot in Shoreham’s wide-open offense, depending on the needs of the situation. Lievre said Clasen plays small forward most of the time, “but if we’re having a hard time with the press, she’ll be the point guard.” The Wildcats will also run plays for her in the post.
When she was younger, and shorter, Clasen played point guard, and developed ballhandling skills that now come in handy. With the exception of an outside shot, the 5-foot-9 Clasen is an all-around player who does many things well.
“She’s an amazing player,” sophomore forward Maria Smith said. “She can score from anywhere on the court.”
Clasen was her productive self in Wednesday’s game at Shoreham-Wading River High School. Not only did she lead all scorers with 15 points, but she produced 6 steals, 5 assists and 4 blocks — all game-high figures — to go with 6 rebounds. That’s a well-balanced stat line.
Lindsey McKenna, a sophomore, brought the Wildcats 13 points.
Clasen is a known quantity. The real revelation this summer for the Wildcats has been the significant progress made by Smith. Lievre said Smith has improved the most of any of his players since the last school season, when she played for the junior varsity team. He said Smith was one of a handful of players he brought up from the junior varsity team to see what they can do in the summer league, and she has made an impression.
“She’s definitely proven to me that she’s ready to take on this level,” said Lievre, adding: “She brings something on both ends of the court. She plays tough defense. She can rebound, but she also contributes on the offensive end. It’s been an eye-opener for me to see how much better she’s gotten since the school season.”
Lievre sees a similarity between Clasen and Smith in some respects. “Courtney doesn’t take a play off and Maria doesn’t really take any plays off, either,” he said. “She’s going all the time.”
Following Wednesday’s game, in which she supplied 5 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals, Smith took part in her first interview. She said she likes the faster pace of varsity basketball, and noted that the summer league has helped her “a lot.”
Clasen said she is excited about what she has seen from her younger teammate.
“She gets rebounds, she’s aggressive, she’s quick,” Clasen said. “She makes good decisions, too. I mean, she’s still young. She’s got a lot to learn, but she’s got a bright future ahead of her.”