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Honoring a legend: Merced court named after Clemons

The long days in the small confines of the Merced High gym are over for Vince Clemons.

The former boys basketball coach basically lived in the gym during the basketball season.

Clemons now spends his days babysitting grandchildren when he's not catching Golden State Warriors games in Oakland or traveling with his wife, Sandy.

Clemons will be back in the gym tonight.

The gym floor that Clemons swept before and after practice for 21 years will officially be named Clemons Court during a ceremony before the Merced-Pitman varsity game on Friday.

"It's humbling," Clemons said. "I spent a lot of hours on that court with a lot of kids that went through the program.

"It's an honor for something like that. It's very rewarding."

The honor is well deserved.

Clemons collected 445 wins, including 78 straight Central California Conference wins to start his career.

Clemons led Merced to 13 CCC titles, four Sac-Joaquin Section championships and seven appearances in section final games.

"There was a 10- or 15-year period where Merced was the premiere program in Northern California," said Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter, who played on Clemons' first Merced team in 1983.

"Coaching aside, he was a gentleman -- don't get me wrong, he was a fierce competitor -- that did things the right way.

"His demeanor on the court was admirable and he's certainly deserving of this honor."

It's the second time Merced has honored Clemons since he retired after the 2002-2003 season.

Merced brought many of Clemons' players back during a ceremony in February of 2006.

"That's what I told my wife, 'they already honored me once. Why are they doing it again?' " Clemons joked.

"That one, I had no idea what they were doing. This one, I know about."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. he can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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