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Win or lose Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Summit League tournament, Emily Clemens likely will have an important message awaiting her after the game.

"They're very encouraging," the Western Illinois point guard said about the gameday text exchanges with Muscatine girls basketball coach Susan Orvis. "She pretty much texts me after every game. She's able to watch a lot of them online, so she'll say 'That was a tough one' or 'Great win. Way to bounce back.'"

As Clemens works on putting the finishing touches on one of the most storied careers in Western Illinois women's basketball history, those back-and-forths with her high school coach have gradually begun shifting to conversations about life after college.

"I really appreciate that about Emily," Orvis said. "She's really kept in touch. We go back and forth on most game days, wishing her luck, how's it going and checking in when things are going well and if there's a tough stretch. We've kept in really good touch. I really appreciate that she does that. She's very busy and is always on to the next thing, as she should be.

"But for her to keep in touch with her old coach, and every now and then she comes by the house and sits and talks with Nate (Orvis) and I. We catch up and even talk about what next steps look like when it comes to jobs and the rest of life after basketball."

For Clemens, it's a display of appreciation toward the coach who helped prepare her for her college basketball journey.

"(Orvis) really pushed me in my high school years," Clemens said. "She kind of prepared me for what was to come at the college level. She helped me know what was coming in my future, just the workouts, the intensity and just the kind of grind you have to have for college basketball.

"So very appreciative of her and all that she's prepared me to do."

Following in the footsteps of Orvis, Clemens hopes to one day become a coach. The former Muskie graduated in December with her bachelor of business in marketing and plans to be the graduate assistant for the Leathernecks for a year while she completes her master's in sport management.

She'll also attend the "So You Want To Be A Coach" program at the Final Four at the end of this month.

But first, there's still some business to take care of on the court.

Clemens already holds Western Illinois records in career points (1,649), assists (674), free throws made (545) and games played (124). The assists and free throws made also are Summit League records. 

As a junior, she helped lead the Leathernecks to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament for the first time since 1995.

"I would say last season as whole, just getting to the tournament for the first time in a long time for our school and just being able to represent our program in a positive way," Clemens said about what she's been most proud of achieving at Western Illinois.

"Individually, coming in here I wanted to be a distributing point guard, so I would say the all-time assist leader and the Summit League assist record mean the most to me because I think it shows my selflessness and ability to get my teammates involved and impact the game."

This season, she is averaging 18.1 points, 7.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game. On Dec. 18, 2017, the same day of graduation, Clemens was in Stanford, California, leading the Leathernecks to their first-ever win over a ranked team. The Western Illinois senior scored 26 points in the 71-64 win over No. 18 Stanford and became the program's all-time assist leader.

The impressive senior season led to a first team all-Summit League selection.

And she's accomplished all of this as the shortest player in the conference.

"She's obviously a very unique talent," Orvis said. "What sets her apart is just her level of intensity, her toughness, she's got a great motor. She's always had a good IQ with the game, but her instincts were very, very good. To kind of get all of that in one package, albeit at a 5-foot-4 package, was a neat thing for our program. It's been really neat to see her succeed at the next level."

Clemens acknowledged that her height has always been her greatest challenge in basketball.

"It's hard to sell 5-4 on paper," she said about the recruiting process in high school.

Playing softball all four years at Muscatine, Clemens also didn't get any exposure on the AAU circuit in the summers.

Those factors ultimately led to her flying under the radars of a lot of Division I programs and allowed the Leathernecks to swoop in and catch lightening in a bottle.

"She's a really motivated kid, and she came in with a little bit of a chip on her shoulder," Western Illinois coach JD Gravina said. "She isn't the type of person you'd want to face in intramurals."

She also isn't someone opponents likely will be too pleased to see on the court during the conference tournament as she tries to help lead the Leathernecks to a second straight Summit League tournament title over the next few days.

Western Illinois (21-8) is the third seed in the bracket and will open with a quarterfinal matchup at 2:30 p.m. Sunday against Omaha (12-15).


Sports Reporter