Tiger Profile: Senior Guard Joanna Clayden
Feb. 16, 2007
Auburn, Ala. - Every team needs a Joanna Clayden. Period.
You could say, "She lights up a room when she walks in" cliché, or that she is a nice breath of fresh air. Cheesy, but true. Just ask the women's basketball team. With this girl running around, dull moments simply do not exist.
Need energy? She's like a gigantic cup of strong, black coffee. No, scratch that. More like a double espresso macchiato, no sugar. Just straight up caffeine.
Maybe you need a little positivity in your life. You're in luck. She's the messiah of optimism.
Or maybe you're just having a rough day. Well, a conversation with her is the equivalent of indulging in your go-to comfort food. Chocolate, ice cream, Joanna Clayden...they're all the same.
Even if you'd rather die than smile, she'll make you smile. She just puts you in a good mood. She's happy all the time. And it's contagious.
And here in Dixie Land, the British accent is a nice change from the everyday southern drawl.
Clayden is the only international player on the women's basketball team. She got her start in the States when she was plucked straight out of Lancashire, England, to play basketball for Panola Junior College in Carthage, Texas.
"It's a once in a lifetime thing when you're English and to get the chance to come over here and play," she said. "I wanted to be in the States and I was just like, `Yeah, I'll do it.' I didn't want to do what everyone else was doing - graduate high school, go to college in England and get a job. I don't like to conform. I'm not much of a follower."
Her decision paid off.
Clayden was a key player for the Panola Fillies, racking up 749 points in two seasons, shooting 44.2 percent from the field. Her sophomore year, she helped lead the Fillies to a Region XIV Championship and a trip to the Junior College National Championships. It was there that Auburn spotted the three-point specialist and offered her an opportunity to further her playing career in the SEC.
She accepted and quickly learned that life in the SEC is no cakewalk.
Most athletes who come to Auburn undergo quite a humbling experience. Where they come from, they are All-Area, All-Conference, All-State, All-Everything. They were the leading scorer, the go-to player, the stud, and Clayden was no exception.
At Auburn, hometown stars and high school All-Americans can struggle for playing time. Here, everyone is exceptional. It's the best of the best all together on the same court, field or arena. And suddenly, you're just another player. For some, it can be a tough pill to swallow.
The transition from standing out to blending in requires a little something called fortitude. Luckily for Clayden, she's got about as much of that as she does energy. She admits it was an adjustment, but she's handled it with maturity and grace.
"I was the main scorer in junior college and I was the go-to player in high school and for England," she said. "I was the one that everybody gave the ball to for the last second shot. Here, I'm just a role player, and I'm okay with that. I've accepted it and I know my job is to hit threes and I'm very happy with that."
Despite the transition, Clayden has dedicated herself to success in her senior year. A self-admitted perfectionist, she contributes to her team any way she can.
"I think I make a conscious effort to be a happy person and bring something to the team," she said. "I don't think I've ever walked into the locker room in a bad mood. I just want to work hard and make everybody laugh and contribute. I don't want to be remembered as the girl who just kind of sat there."
Certainly, that won't be a problem.
Clayden, the lone senior on the 2006-2007 squad, has played in 26 of 27 games this season and leads the team with a .364 percentage from three-point range, hitting 39 times in 107 attempts. She's tacked on five blocks and 12 steals and has contributed 122 total points, averaging almost five points per game.
But stats are the last thing on her mind. It's all about the team, and according to her, this team is better than they give themselves credit for. She beams when she talks about the potential of her teammates and has high hopes for the future of Auburn women's basketball.
"I just want to win," she said. "When we're playing well, we're so good. Everything looks perfect. We're so young and I don't think they realize how much potential they have. One day it's just going to erupt. When we're on, it's just so nice to watch."
The season is winding down with only Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss left on the regular schedule. Clayden, also known as the "British Bomber" for her ability to sink the three, is more than ready. "I just want to finish strong," she said. "We just need a little spark."
In case she hasn't noticed, she's got plenty of spark to go around.
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