Clephane's resilience, toughness help spur Ball State's success

<p>Cardinals redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane going drives to the basket during a game against Miami University Jan. 27, 2021, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals took the win 85-82. <strong>Grace Walton, DN</strong></p>

Cardinals redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane going drives to the basket during a game against Miami University Jan. 27, 2021, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals took the win 85-82. Grace Walton, DN

Nov. 7, 2018.

Anna Clephane, then only a true freshman from Scott High School in Taylor Mill, Kentucky, made her Ball State debut in its season opener against Purdue. Clephane played 23 minutes and contributed five points, three rebounds, two assists and a team-high two steals in the 80-38 loss to the Boilermakers.

Dec. 6, 2018.

Clephane played (and started) her ninth game against Vanderbilt. She was just coming off a season and career-high performance eight days prior at Cincinnati, where she scored 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the Cardinals to a 75-63 victory. 

However, during the second quarter of the game and after 11 minutes of playing time, Clephane went down with a torn ACL. It ultimately led to her getting surgery Dec. 20, 2018, and the injury ended a season that could have been full of potential for her.

Nov. 5, 2019.

Nearly a year to the day of her career debut, Clephane returned for Ball State's season opener at IUPUI, coming off the bench for the first time in her career. She scored nine points and had a season-high five steals, four rebounds, an assist and a block — all while contributing 25 minutes. Ball State lost the game 65-48, but Clephane’s return that night was a feel-good moment for the team.

Redshirt Freshman guard Anna Clephane falls down after shooting a basket Not. 5, 2019, in the IUPUI Gymnasium in Indianapolis, Ind. Clephane played 25 minutes against IUPUI. Jacob Musselman, DN

“I was so excited to see her be able to come out and play that way,” head coach Brady Sallee said after that game in an interview with The Ball State Daily News. “[Clephane] has worked so hard just to get back out on the floor. For her to be able to come out and be that spark and play with that much energy has everybody excited.”

Clephane completed the season playing all 31 games, finishing with an average of 6.2 points per game and fifth on the team in points as a redshirt freshman.

“Anna has always been a young lady that is willing to do whatever I needed her to do for the team,” Sallee said. “You've seen her start, you've seen her come off the bench. You've seen her play two different positions for us. You've seen her guard the other team's best wing player. She’s kind of that jack-of-all-trades kid, and the healthier she is the, the better off, she can do all those things.”

Jan. 27, 2021.

Two weeks after hitting career-highs in points (24), field goals made (9) and minutes played (38) in an 88-85 overtime victory at Ohio Jan. 13, the redshirt sophomore guard once again helped the Cardinals to a victory over Miami (Ohio) 85-82. Clephane tallied 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and a season-high two steals, proving to Coach Sallee and the rest of her teammates that she can contribute on both sides of the ball.

Sallee said he has “a ton” of confidence in the way Clephane is playing right now, and her performance marked what he and his team is accustomed to seeing from her.

“Ever since Essence [Booker] went down, I feel like Anna has kind of taken it upon herself to have Essence’s back,” Sallee said.

Booker went down with a similar, though not the same, injury to the one Clephane suffered in 2018. 

“[Clephane] has taken advantage of the opportunity, and I think what you're seeing Anna do is just what she knows she's capable of doing,” Sallee said. “Nothing more, nothing less. I think she's playing really efficiently.”

Cardinals redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane shoots a free throw during a game against the Miami University Redhawks Jan. 27, 2021, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals took the win 85-82. Grace Walton, DN

In her third season with the Cardinals, Clephane has a lot of time left with the team due to her medical redshirt — more than two years to be exact. Sallee said that Clephane’s road to rehab has led her to where she is now.

“There's a certain level of toughness with [Clephane] because she knows what she's done to get back out on that court and play the way she is,” Sallee said. “There's just a thirsty hungry player that doesn't want an injury to be the story of her career. And now, you're seeing a healthy young lady playing at a high, high level, and I couldn't be more excited for her because she's just a great human.” 

A long road to recovery has brought Clephane to where she is today — a starter once again and one of the Cardinals’ top contributors. Sallee is certain that she will only continue to get better as her career progresses.

Contact Evan Weaver with comments at or on Twitter @evan_weaver7.


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