Player of the Year: Phillip Clayman
He's qualified because: One of the premier defensive players in the Central Section, helped ignite a 28-5, Tri-River Athletic Conference championship and Central Section Division I runner-up season with 116 steals and 28 field blocks while often guarding the opposing team's top scorer. Also contributed offensively with 46 goals (on 43% shooting accuracy) and 45 assists. Carries a weighted 4.4 GPA and is considering Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and Brown as college options.
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Playing defense has always come natural to Buchanan High boys water polo player Phillip Clayman.
Even in his days in youth soccer, Clayman was a defender focused more on keeping points off the scoreboard than his own scoring.
That's why Bears co-coach Dave Pickford had no reservations making the following statement about an 18-year-old senior who carries a 4.4 GPA in honors classes and is active in various other school extracurricular activities:
"His personality is not to be an offensive player. He really needed to work on that. It's probably the hardest thing he's done in high school. Not calculus or mock trial, but learning how to be offensive in water polo."
Clayman, the driving force on a Buchanan team that compiled the best record in the Central Section this season at 28-5, didn't disagree.
"School is something I do fairly well," said Clayman, The Bee Boys Water Polo Player of the Year. "But being offensive \ was a big challenge for me."
Much like his studies, it was a challenge Clayman mastered.
In addition to playing the lockdown defense that earned him a starting job and All-Valley honors as a sophomore, Clayman blossomed on the other end of the pool this season, contributing 46 goals (on 43% shooting), 45 assists and 19 drawn ejections for the Central Section Division I runner-up Bears.
"I don't know if it was pent-up frustration that he didn't score when he was younger, but it was like he thought 'Hey, I have this new weapon and I want to play with it,' " Pickford said.
Clayman said he was simply serving the needs of the team.
"My sophomore year, the team didn't really need me on offense. They just needed a sixth player who was good on defense," Clayman said. "But this year, I needed to be someone who wasn't just a defender but an all-around good player. It took a lot of practice and making sure I was in the right mindset to execute. I tried to put myself in the right position to be an offensive threat."
While Clayman's offensive output improved through extra shooting practice and encouragement to take his shot when opportunities arose, his defensive presence remained steady as ever as he led the Bears with 116 steals and 28 field blocks.
He was at his best guarding the best as he was primarily responsible for limiting Clovis North's Pepperdine-bound Shae Russell to one goal in three meetings.
"I'm good at responding to what offensive players do," said Clayman, who has drawn college interest from Stanford and Pomona while also eying opportunities at Ivy League schools Harvard, Princeton and Brown. "I can put myself in good position to counter whatever they are doing."