SOUTH WEBSTER — In Jeep Country, the athletic Bri Claxon has been an all-around ace on the volleyball floor, a scoring machine on the basketball court, and a solid standout shortstop on the softball diamond.
But one of the top student-athletes ever to attend —and soon to graduate from —South Webster will be focusing exclusively on basketball, as Claxon has made official her college choice of sport and school.
That’s because, in a recent signing ceremony inside the South Webster High School media center, Claxon announced her intention to play college basketball at Gannon University —an NCAA Division II program located in Erie, Pa.
Claxon, one of two new Golden Knights’ signees announced by head coach Cleve Wright, was right smack dab in the middle of midweek preparations for the Jeeps’ volleyball state semifinal match when she put pen to paper.
She was flanked by her parents, Corey and Darcee Claxon; South Webster High School girls basketball head coach Ryan Dutiel; South Webster High School girls basketball assistant coach Matt Raynard; and several Jeep teammates, family members and friends.
With her senior season still ahead of her, the five-foot, seven-inch point guard Claxon is already a two-time all-Ohio Division IV selection —having made third team all-state in averaging 18-and-a-half points per game as a sophomore, followed by an increase to 25.7 points per game and a second-team distinction as a junior.
Of her three sports, she said basketball is her best love —and her choosing Gannon University ultimately began with her Team Ohio AAU coach Tuck Conner connecting with Wright.
Claxon accepted an invitation to an Elite Camp, she and Wright kept in contact afterwards after the coach watched her play, and she met with most of the current Golden Knights about the prospects of becoming one.
“I could just see that their team was like a family, and that was something I really wanted to be part of. I really like the campus too; it’s super nice up in Erie,” said Claxon. “I just saw it as being my new home. It’s been really nice seeing the hard work I’ve put in pay off. Playing college basketball has been a dream of mine since I was little and once I realized basketball was my favorite sport. Just finally for it (signing) to be here, and it to actually happen, I’m just proud.”
Claxon said she was contacted by multiple Division III schools, and also took visits to Cedarville University and Mount Vernon Nazarene University, but “I just really fell in love with the girls at Gannon and with the campus.”
The private and Catholic campus has approximately 4,500 students and 46,000 alumni —as its athletic programs belong to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, consisting of 18 full-time members with only one, Shepherd University in West Virginia, located outside the Keystone State.
Wright recruited Claxon as a guard, as she can play both the point and shooting spots —and even the small yet attacking off-ball position.
“We are excited to welcome Bri to the Gannon women’s basketball family. She fits our program as player and as a teammate. Bri is a highly-competitive athlete who will bring quickness and explosiveness to our guards,” said Wright, in a release announcing Claxon’s signing. “She has the ability to score at all three levels and excels off the dribble.”
She is already over 1,000 career points after scoring 537 as a junior and 428 as a sophomore —as she has also averaged at least four-and-a-half rebounds, three steals and two assists per game over that two-year course.
She shot 43-percent from the field and 64-percent from the free-throw line with 19 three-pointers as a sophomore — and only upped those numbers to 48-percent from the floor, 68-percent from the stripe, and 25 three-balls as a junior.
”She is our catalyst. She is the one which makes the whole thing go,” said Dutiel. “The other kids just feed off of her.”
Claxon also established the Lady Jeeps’ new single-game scoring record —pouring in 43 points against Eastern last year.
For those into counting, she sits seventh on the Lady Jeeps’ all-time career scoring list —within 10 points now of an even 1,200.
“He (Wright) originally wanted me as a point guard, but after watching me play more, I think he likes me more at shooting guard, and just getting up and down the floor and out in transition,” she said. “I used to be a lot shorter than I am now, but in college, a lot of my teammates will still be taller than me. That’s different, but what I lack in size maybe I make up for in speed. They like to get out and go, it’s fast-paced, but I think that correlates to my style of play.”
Dutiel, her coach for four years now, said that Claxon is indeed talented and can score seemingly at will —but is also an exceptionally hard worker.
“Every day at practice, she gives 110-percent, no matter what she is doing. She just pushes herself and pushes her game to new heights each and every year. This is just a reward for her for all that hard work,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody ever work as hard as what she has. She works on her craft over the summers, after practices are over. We’ll break huddles for the practice being over, but she’ll still be out there taking shots or working on something. She just keeps trying to improve each and every day.”
Dutiel continued, claiming Claxon’s game is a “natural fit” for the collegiate level.
“Most colleges like to get out and go, and that’s her style. She makes things happen when she gets out in transition. By getting out and playing that faster-paced game, I think she is well-suited for that,” said the coach. “She gets out and goes, she is able to hit people on the fast break, and she can spot up with that beautiful jump shot. She is one of the few girls whom I’ve seen that shoots a true jump shot. She has beautiful rotation and form for that. I think she is going to do great things at Gannon. They are really getting a tremendous player.”
The Golden Knights are also getting an ideal student-athlete, as Claxon plans to major in Biomedical Engineering.
She is the Lady Jeeps’ engineer indeed, and one of the odds-on preseason favorites for Southeast District Division IV Player of the Year.
Claxon said that she is at peace with her college choice —both in terms of school and sport.
Her focus, from volleyball in mid-November, now shifts starting on Monday night for the Lady Jeeps’ roundball campaign.
“It’s really good. I can just enjoy my senior season of basketball and not have anything to worry over,” said Claxon. “I can just play for me, my team, and just have fun because that’s what it’s all about.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved