Sarah Clapper isn't having much trouble letting go.
Sarah Clapper isn't having much trouble letting go.
She'll be eligible to receive her undergraduate degree in sports management from Bowling Green State University in August. Afterward, she'll begin working as a graduate assistant in the athletics department there while studying to earn her master's in human movement sport leisure studies.
In the more immediate future, Clapper is running a week-long youth basketball camp beginning Monday at The Advantage Club in Newark, where she is serving a summer internship.
Her women's basketball career now behind her, the 2006 Newark Catholic High School graduate clearly is moving forward to the next stage of her life, which for the first time means toiling behind the scenes from an athletic standpoint.
"I'm staying involved without really being the one involved," she said. "It's definitely going to be different, but it's going to be different in a good way. I'm going more into the business side (of sports) now."
Bowling Green proved to be a fertile learning environment for Clapper, a 6-foot forward who arrived on campus as a top recruit after starring in both basketball and volleyball for the Green Wave. Her college career didn't pan out as expected, however. Knee injuries cut short her first two seasons, and she never started a game for the Falcons.
"You can feel sorry for yourself in a situation like that or you can stay positive and make the best of it, and that's what I tried to do," Clapper said. "I knew I was still in a great situation."
A two-time ThisWeek Player of the Year, she led the Newark Catholic girls basketball team to a combined 85-14 record from 2002-06 and was the anchor of district-championship squads in Division IV in '03 and Division III in '05. Also a two-time ThisWeek Player of the Year in volleyball, she departed as the girls basketball team's leader in career rebounds (784) while finishing as the program's second-leading career scorer (1,640 points).
Clapper's skills both inside and on the perimeter helped spearhead a Green Wave revival that continues today. Until her freshman season, the basketball team had made just one regional appearance since winning the Class A state championship in 1984. Also, Newark Catholic forged a combined 42-0 record playing three seasons in the MSL-Cardinal Division.
She averaged 21.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.2 steals as a senior while converting 34 percent of her 3-point attempts and shooting 56 percent from the floor overall. She made first-team all-state and for a second time was named the district Player of the Year.
After playing her final game in a 48-38 loss to Africentric Secondary in a Division IV district final, coach Matt Schmelzer was asked what Clapper meant to the program.
"A lot of wins," he said at that time, with a laugh. "She's a fine young lady, a quality player and a quality person. She's going to be missed."
Bowling Green coach Curt Miller likely feels the same way now that Clapper is finished playing there. Her role was vastly different given the injuries, but again her team enjoyed an unparalleled stretch of success. Last season, the Falcons won a sixth consecutive MAC regular-season title and fourth postseason tournament championship in six years, finishing 27-7 overall. They qualified for the NCAA tournament for the 10th time, which is a conference record.
"Sarah had an outstanding career for BGSU. She won four MAC championships and played in two NCAA tournaments, including our Sweet 16 run in 2007," Miller wrote in an e-mail. "Despite her injuries, Sarah played a huge role within our team.
"On the court, Sarah was a reliable wing off the bench. She was an outstanding shooter and a real team leader. She had a high basketball IQ and was like having a coach on the floor.
"Sarah's biggest impact on our 2009-10 championship team was her leadership. She was the vocal leader in our locker room and off the court. She kept a young team focused and helped pass along our championship culture to the underclassmen."
Clapper was one of three Bowling Green seniors last season. That class, which also included Tara Breske and Laura Bugher, became the program's fourth in as many seasons to surpass 100 victories. In fact, its 113 wins is second behind only the 2009 class, which won a MAC-record 114 games. Clapper and her classmates also departed having won their final 30 home games in Anderson Arena.
"The numbers that her class achieved are almost unbelievable," Miller wrote. "There are stats like that all over the place."
Moreover, the Falcons posted a cumulative GPA of 3.5 in 2008-09, the latest season for which those numbers are available. That ranked fifth nationally, according to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
"I went to Bowling Green not only to play basketball but also to get an education," said Clapper, whose younger sister, Amy Clapper, just completed her redshirt freshman season at North Carolina-Greensboro. "All of us, we just never forgot that. We worked as hard as we could in the classroom, too."
Clapper played in 91 games at Bowling Green, averaging 6.5 minutes in 31 games as a senior. She matched the highest 3-point total of her career last winter by making 14 of those shots and completed her stay as a 32.8 percent shooter from behind the arc (38 of 116).
Coming out of high school, Ohio Girls Basketball Report magazine had referred to her as the state's "best pure shooter in this class." She never had a chance to live up to that lofty reputation as the injuries mounted and other standouts such as Jonathan Alder's Lauren Prochaska arrived, but Clapper's career concluded with a memorable moment nonetheless.
She knocked down the final shot of her career on a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining during a 72-62 loss to Michigan State in a first-round NCAA tournament game March 20 in Louisville's Freedom Hall, which is closing following a 54-year run as the Cardinals move to a new downtown arena next year.
"That was a pretty cool way to go out, anyway," said Clapper, who envisions herself staying in athletic administration after college. "I have a few disappointments, of course, especially because you always build things up in your mind so much when you're first starting out.
"Some of the things that happened along the way were out of my control, but I had a great time and feel like I accomplished an awful lot. I have no regrets, really, and I know I've got a lot to look forward to."
Injuries kept Sarah Clapper from fulfilling her goals, but she did make her final field-goal attempt on a 3-pointer in a loss to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament in Louisville's Freedom Hall.