On Nov. 20, 2012, Wheaton’s men’s basketball team, the Lyons, defeated the Emerson Lions 61-57. Then-sophomore Ryan Clinesmith started for the Lyons, scoring 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds. But the 6-foot-5 forward didn’t know he would be suiting up for Emerson two seasons later.
Clinesmith, now a junior, is one of five newcomers to the Lions’ basketball team this year.
Born and raised in New York City, Clinesmith attended The Hill School, a preparatory boarding school about 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia. His team was successful during his high school career, winning a conference title and reaching the state tournament in his senior year.
After applying to various colleges, Clinesmith said his choices came down to the State University of New York at New Paltz, Union College, and Wheaton College.
After weighing his options, Clinesmith decided on Wheaton, the only school of the three not located in his home state. Wheaton is located about 40 miles south of Boston. Its teams also play in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, which Emerson joined the season after Clinesmith faced the Lions.
“[Wheaton’s] head coach was a great recruiter,” said Clinesmith, now a writing, literature, and publishing major. “I felt like at the time, I was coming from this boarding school in the middle of nowhere, and Wheaton was also pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I thought it was going to be a fit.”
Clinesmith spent two years there, where he studied to be an educator. But he averaged just 3.8 points per game his freshman season, where he started only four games and saw action in 20. The following season, he started 15 games and improved averages in every offensive category. His 13.4 points per game ranked 10th in the NEWMAC in scoring.
Despite his success on the court, Clinesmith said he felt out of place.
“It was tough for me to be in such a one-shop town, especially for college,” said Clinesmith.
He chose to leave Wheaton and said he returned home to New York to work and dabble in other interests while deciding where to transfer.
“I was studying education,” Clinesmith said, “so I spent the time figuring out if that’s what I really wanted to do.”
He said he worked at a Reebok Sports Club and as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at Little Red High School in Manhattan. Clinesmith said spending time in New York helped him decide where to go to school next.
“I wanted to be back in the city,” he said. “I’m a city boy.”
Clinesmith said his next college decision came down to Dominican College in New York, and Emerson. In the end, he said men’s basketball coach Bill Curley was the deciding factor in choosing Emerson.
“He reached out to me and let me know he wanted me here,” Clinesmith said.
Clinesmith moved back to Massachusetts—only this time, he moved to a city, away from what he felt was the stagnant life of a one-shop town.
“I like it here a lot better,” said Clinesmith. “The people are more approachable, and there’s a lot more to do.”
As one of 12 juniors on the roster, Clinesmith said he wants to be a leader and bring a “mature presence” to the court.
He said he also hopes to help fill the void left by last year’s captain and leading scorer Jon Goldberg, who was named to the NEWMAC all-conference team. Goldberg was second in the NEWMAC in rebounds last season, at 9.2, and Clinesmith’s 5.3 rebounds per game during the 2012-2013 season were ninth in the NEWMAC.
Senior captain Eli Kell-Abrams said he was confident that Clinesmith will quickly make a difference on both offense and defense.
“He’s going to help us win a lot of games,” said Kell-Abrams, a journalism major. “I expect him to pick up where he left off at Wheaton, [where he] was a very good scorer and a rebound big man.”
Clinesmith said he bought into Curley’s message of “striving for perfection” right away, and believes the Lions have a chance of winning the NEWMAC title.
“I think between me, [Michael] Thorpe, Austin Pinckney, and everyone else, we may be among the top starting fives in the NEWMAC,” said Clinesmith. “We can go as far as we want to go.”
Clinesmith will face his former school twice this season. The first game will be on Jan. 21, when the Lions travel to Wheaton to play their fifth NEWMAC game of the season. Both teams finish regular season play on Feb. 21 at Emerson.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Clinesmith said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
Deputy sports editor Mike Lucas, who lives with Ryan Clinesmith and is a member of the basketball team, did not edit this story.