Samantha Clement was in the woods and she was miserable.
She was on a field trip with her sixth-grade class – a week-long outdoor science camp – and all she wanted to do was go home. She hated being outdoors. She found that she couldn’t sleep, was terribly homesick, and worst of all her best friend, Melody, in the midst of a three-year battle with cancer, wasn’t on the trip.
“The first night there I was just crying, because I was so miserable,” says Clement. “At the time Mel was in and out of chemo, so she could only stay for a few days. When her mom brought her up, I was excused from activities so I could just hang out with her, and then that night she was in the bunk above me and I slept like a baby just knowing she was there.”
At the end of that year, Melody passed away.
Years later, Clement got a tattoo to commemorate her friend’s life. Simple in its design, the sketch style tattoo features two geometrical mountain peaks behind a tree, as well as waves with the word “thrive” in all caps.
“When I went to get the tattoo, I thought about all my favorite memories of Mel,” says Clement. “The tree in the tattoo represents outdoor science camp and just how miserable I was until she came, and then how her arrival transformed the experience for me. The waves are for the fact that her family had a boat, and we were always going boating and swimming. And ‘THRIVE’ means to live vigorously. And that’s how she lived, and that’s what she would want me to do.”
After Melody passed away, Clement became more focused on basketball. She had begun playing years earlier – thanks in large part to her grandfather and “best friend”, Steven, who played for Johns Hopkins – but Clement had been limited due to her own health issues. As a 9-year old, Clement stood at 4-foot-10 and tipped the scales at 130 pounds. She was also in constant pain.
It turned out that she had several severe food allergies, and after more than a year of testing it was determined that her body could not process gluten, rice, corn or soy.
“I was a tank,” laughs Clement. “My body just couldn’t handle the food I was eating. But once we figured out everything, I think I was in fifth grade and I lost 40 pounds in about two months.”
Just over a year later, with her best friend gone but her physical health improved, Clement turned to basketball as an outlet.
“I had always liked basketball, but once Mel passed it became something that made me feel better and made me smile for the first time.”
For those who know Clement, it’s hard to imagine her without a smile on her face. When described by friends and teammates the words most often used are positive, outgoing and funny.
“I’ve always been pretty happy, which is why I think Mel and I got along so well,” says Clement. “But she was really the most upbeat, lively person. She was so full of life, and I think that part of her is still with me. I think about how hard she fought and how badly she wanted to be here. To see her go through chemo three or four times, and then for me to not make the most out of every single day – if I took one moment of this life for granted, then I'd be a jerk.”
In the spirit of making every moment and opportunity count, Clement decided to take advantage of her father’s dual citizenship to further her basketball career. With several of her friends getting involved with the U.S.A. Basketball program, she decided to look into the possibility of joining England’s national teams.
“We didn't know if they even had a basketball team, because everyone over there only cares about soccer,” she says. “But my dad did some research, and I got in contact with the coach. I had just turned 15, and it was my spring break. I flew over for a try-out, and I actually made the team.”
As a member of the England U16 National Team, Clement played in the 2012 European Championships in Hungary, as well as the 2013 European Championships in Porto, Portugal. At the 2013 Championship, she was named the FIBA Player of the Game for England’s contest vs. Belarus.
Eldon Lindsay, Dave Burbank, Patrick Shanahan, Samantha Clement