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In-state recruits Dominique Clifford, Luke O’Brien make it official with CU basketball

2020 additions long on potential

Dominique Clifford was one of dozens upon dozens of potential Division I prospects who hoped to make an impression at Colorado’s annual elite camp in the summer of 2018.

Clifford, at the time an unheralded guard out of The Vanguard School in Colorado Springs, was unable to set himself apart from the pack. In fact, CU basketball coach Tad Boyle recalls how Clifford was assigned to the gym where the second-tier prospects were relegated.

Less than a year and half later, not only has Clifford surpassed all those one-time campmates, but he officially has joined Boyle’s CU Buffs program.

On Wednesday, the Buffs celebrated national signing day by receiving letters of intent from two in-state recruits in Clifford and Columbine’s 6-foot-7 Luke O’Brien, who verbally committed to CU a year ago.

Clifford grew several inches in the past year and his recruiting profile expanded accordingly. He is considered a three-star prospect by 247Sports.com, which also lists Clifford as the top prospect in Colorado and the 39th-ranked shooting guard in the nation.

“You started hearing about him through his junior year. Went down and saw him a couple times. Saw him in the summer. He came back to the elite camp and I said, ‘OK, this guy is a baller.’ It’s time to step up,” Boyle said. “We were a little bit late to the party in terms of recruiting. But we’re usually not the first ones to be coming in on guys unless they’re no-brainers. He’s a homegrown guy and you have to protect the borders of this state. He’s a guy we couldn’t let go.”

Clifford averaged 18.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game last season while leading Vanguard to a runner-up finish in the Class 3A state tournament. While the Buffs project to still have guards Maddox Daniels, Daylen Kountz, and Eli Parquet next season — along with McKinley Wright, if CU’s star point guard returns for his senior year — Clifford’s addition gives Boyle a potential backcourt of the future alongside current freshman Keeshawn Barthelemy, who is expected to redshirt this season.

“Dominique can play the point. But he shoots it well enough he can play off the ball,” Boyle said. “Keeshawn is the same way. When we got Keeshawn late we had to address it in the recruiting process with Dominique that hey, you guys are the backcourt of the future of Colorado basketball. He bought into that. I’m glad he did. Keeshawn is a little smaller. But Dominique has got pretty good size. I really think they will complement each other well.”

O’Brien projects as a larger wing player that Boyle compared to D’Shawn Schwartz, who will be a senior when O’Brien arrives next year. O’Brien averaged 21.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists for Columbine last season.

The duo adds to an ever-growing list of in-state recruits landed by Boyle during his 10 seasons at the helm, a group that includes Schwartz, Kountz, Josh Scott, Xavier Talton, Wesley Gordon, Dominique Collier, Derrick White, and Dallas Walton.

“They’re both obviously Colorado kids. Which I think is always special,” Boyle said. “We’ve had Luke committed now well over a year and he’s going to be a good player. A bouncy, athletic guy that can shoot it and stretch the defense. I look at him kind of like a D’Shawn. He’s not where D’Shawn is physically yet, but his skill set, he’s got a good motor and great size. He can play a lot of different positions and guard multiple positions. We’re really excited to add him to the mix.”