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Nique Clifford is flourishing in Fort Collins — the former Buff is putting up monster numbers for CSU

Justin Michael Avatar
February 3, 2024

Nique Clifford has been unleashed by Niko Medved this season. 

In three seasons at the University of Colorado, Clifford, a former four-star prospect and top 100 recruit, averaged 5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. In 82 games with the Buffs he shot 40 percent from the field, 34 percent from 3-point range, and he scored in double-digit figures a total of 15 times. 

Since moving 45 miles north to Fort Collins, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound guard has been a completely different player. 

In just 21 games in a Rams uniform, Clifford has scored in double-digit figures 18 times already. And after recording one double-double in the first three years of his career, Clifford has done it five times this season alone. 

On a much higher volume of attempts than he produced in Boulder, Clifford’s numbers have improved across the board. His overall field goal percentage (.600) is a full 15 percent better than his best year with CU. He’s been a significantly more consistent shooter from deep as well. At 51 percent from beyond the arc, Clifford has legitimately been lethal. 

Whether you look at his free throw shooting, which is up about 20 percent. Or his rebounding, which has essentially doubled in output. His steals per game, too. There’s not an area on the floor in which Clifford is not flourishing in Fort Collins. 

Nique Clifford finishes off the glass for a reverse layup against SDSU. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

According to KenPom, Clifford is top 10 nationally in both effective field goal percentage (8th) and true shooting percentage (5th). Both of those make a ton of sense when you watch the way he operates on the floor.

If Isaiah Stevens kicks him the ball at the top of the key, he’ll let it fly if he has the space. But if a driving lane is open, Clifford will use his length and explosiveness to get to the rim in a hurry. He simply plays within the flow of the game and constantly makes the right decisions. 

In transition situations Clifford makes defenders question if they are playing the right sport with how easy he makes the game seem.

There are few players out there with the type of effortless bounce that Clifford possesses, and his long strides allow him to get up the court with ease. Just when a defender thinks that he’s figured out a way to slow the athletic guard down on the drive, though, the Colorado Springs native will mess around and drain a pull-up jumper in his face.

Nique Clifford stands with his teammates prior to the 79-71 victory over SDSU at Moby Arena. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

While we could continue to rave over Clifford’s growth offensively — it’s been incredible to see the strides he’s made on that end at CSU — I’d be remiss to not also highlight his defensive impact. 

In addition to being third in the Mountain West in offensive box plus/minus, which is an estimate of offensive points per 100 possessions a player contributes over a league-average player, Clifford is second in defensive box plus/minus. He’s the only player in the league to rank top 3 on both sides. 

As things currently stand, Clifford is second on the Rams in scoring and assists, first in rebounds and steals, and he’s been the most efficient 3-point shooter on the roster. Many expected him to be a highly impactful transfer for the Green & Gold, but he’s more than exceeded expectations. He’s shattered them. 

“He’s just been massive for us,” Niko Medved said of the former Buff. “I’m just so happy to see him having the success that he’s having.”

Coming off of a phenomenal showing against the Aztecs in which he scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, it will be interesting to see what type of performance Clifford is able to deliver against Fresno State on Saturday night. 

The Rams are 8-2 this year when Clifford scores 15+ points. They’re 3-0 when he scores 20 or more. On a night where CSU really needs to pull out a dub away from Moby Arena, it seems like getting Clifford heavily involved would certainly behoove the Rams. 

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