Clintell Gillaspie might be shy and soft spoken when it comes to his abilities on the court, but one thing he is open about is his inability to deflect frustration.
The 6-1 senior guard expects greatness. As the son of former Pitt wide receiver, Darrin Gillaspie, anything less would be a disappointment. When jump shots don’t fall, he shakes his head. When he gets called for a charge after a precise crossover dribble during a one-on-one, he groans. Those same situations put him in a less than ideal situation Feb. 25, when Monessen faced Vincentian Academy in the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
After being called for his fourth personal foul – most of which came when frustration set in – early in the fourth quarter, the 17-year-old was relegated to the bench. With limited playing time, Gillaspie finished with a game-high 34 points to lead Monessen in a 110-99 win that the Greyhounds into the WPIAL title game.
Frustration is inevitable for Gillaspie, which he said comes from his father.
“This is one of my best seasons I’ve ever had, especially with me coming off of playing football and never really playing basketball,” Gillaspie said.
He finished this season as one of the WPIAL’s best by averaging 18.5 points per game and scoring 143 more points than last season – finishing with 518. The performance has earned him the distinction of the Observer-Reporter’s Player of the Year.
Gillaspie has only played organized basketball since the eighth grade. He spent the past four fall sports seasons as a dominant running back for the Greyhounds, gaining 1,218 rushing yards and ranking second in WPIAL with 204 points scored in his senior year.
After Neshannock ended Monessen’s football season in the WPIAL playoffs, Gillaspie wanted to make his senior year count. He wanted the championship thathas eluded him for four years. The day after losing to the Lancers, he picked up a basketball and got to work.
The rest is history.
“Football-wise, he’s probably a man amongst boys,” Monessen head coach Joe Salvino said. “Basketball-wise, he was a person who had all of the athleticism and tools that you need. He just needs to learn the game a little bit more and this year, he did that.”
Gillaspie’s play this season surprised opposing coaches who thought of him as a football player trying to excel at basketball. He currently plans to play football at Lackawanna Community College in Scranton with teammate Javon Brown. If basketball coaches start calling, he plans to listen. His coach has said all season Gillaspie can be one of the WPIAL’s best if he put his mind to it. He did just that.
“He embraced basketball this year, and he really worked at it,” Salvino said. “I think he was hesitant last year because he really didn’t know the game of basketball yet. He found his way and he found a way to contribute to a team.”