Keith Clanton is a Knight through thick and thin.
The big man has had his fair share of highlights on the court, but it won’t be his skills that will make Clanton the most beloved Knight of all time, it’ll be his loyalty.
As the program’s highest-rated recruit at the time of his arrival, Clanton was a trailblazer.
The four-star prospect came to a school with little history but a lot of potential. He also had a head coach he believed in, but the coach wasn’t Donnie Jones.
Former head coach Kirk Speraw, the guy who led the Knights to four NCAA tournament appearances, recruited Clanton.
But even when the coach who brought him to UCF was fired following his freshman year, Clanton adapted to a new coaching system under Donnie Jones — and excelled.
Clanton went on to become the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots and led the team in scoring last year.
And if things keep going the same way, and Marcus Jordan splits with the team for his senior year, Clanton will be the only remaining member of his four-man signing class.
Talk about loyalty.
While each of Clanton’s fellow class of 2009 recruits found a reason to leave UCF, Clanton found reasons to stay.
It’s no secret that Clanton was looking at his options following the announcement of the school’s one-year postseason ban. He deserved that opportunity.
It’s also no secret that Clanton could have excelled at another school.
The forward reportedly could have played for the defending-champion Kentucky Wildcats or a Florida State squad that has reached the tournament the past four years.
So why come back?
The answer is simple. The guy loves UCF.
Clanton announced via Twitter that he is indeed staying and had this to say:
“I think to people’s surprise I will be returning to UCF for my Sr. season I love this team and my dreams and goals can be fulfilled here.”
Yeah, it’s probably true that staying with coach Jones allows Clanton to shine in a system he’s comfortable in, maximizing his draft stock. And yeah, it’s true that Clanton is from Orlando and feels most comfortable at UCF.
But, at the end of the day, if Clanton didn’t love the school, he wasn’t going to stay. He had too great an opportunity to leave. No one would have blamed him for leaving.
But the fact is, he announced he’s staying. He’s here for good.
And in a world where loyalty pretty much means jack, I think that decision is good for something.