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Maryvale basketball “gym rat” Claire Neff lets hard work guide her

Maryvale's Claire Neff, right, shoots against Jada Johnson, of St. Timothy's, in the second half of a high school girls basketball game.
Maryvale's Claire Neff, right, shoots against Jada Johnson, of St. Timothy's, in the second half of a high school girls basketball game.(Steve Ruark/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Maryvale’s 6-foot-2 Claire Neff has the ability to back opponents down and score with her height or to draw them out past the 3-point arc for a triple, averaging 18.9 points per game this season.

The Clemson-bound senior’s abilities in the frontcourt and behind the 3-point line were crafted in the gym like a masterpiece by a top-notch artist.

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During the summer, Neff works on her craft twice a day and even works out on Sundays to get better. In the offseason, she’s in the gym three times a week and exercises twice a week. She even practices every day during the season to become the best at what she does.

Much of the time that training comes with St. Timothy’s head coach Vernon Harris as well as Jeffrey Butler.

“We work together to get Claire where she is,” Harris said. “To see where she is now, it just goes to show all of the hard work that you put in pays off. She’s a gym rat and she wanted to learn.

“When her shot wasn’t falling the way that she wanted and when you saw the mistakes that she made, she got in the gym and we fixed it. She was mentally tough and ready to make those changes. Now she shows you that her range is ridiculous, and I’m just proud of her. And not only that, but she’s a good person. Hands down, you can’t ask for a better young lady on the court and off of the court.”

Maryvale's Claire Neff, left, and Jasmine Johnson, of St. Timothy's, vie for a loose ball in the second half of a high school girls basketball game.
Maryvale's Claire Neff, left, and Jasmine Johnson, of St. Timothy's, vie for a loose ball in the second half of a high school girls basketball game.(Steve Ruark/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Her offseason training came in the form of EYBL games with the Philly Belles and coach Tony Lee and playing AAU ball, formerly with current Maryvale coach Alex Miller. Miller coached Neff for two years in AAU and has led her team in high school for four seasons.

“I’ve really enjoyed coaching her,” said Miller after Maryvale’s matchup with St. Timothy’s. “She’s somebody that has contagious energy. She’s got an infectious personality and to add to that, she’s a tremendous basketball player. She does a little bit of everything for us — she’ll bring the ball up as our point guard. She can be our shooting guard. She can play in the post.

“As you saw tonight, she defends really well and changes the game when she blocks the ball and runs the court. She’s been a really tremendous player for us here at Maryvale, and I’m excited to finish out the next month with her and she’s off to Clemson.”

The senior signed with Clemson to play for second-year coach Amanda Butler’s program, which finished 20-13 last season, en route to a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament. Neff’s decision wasn’t easy, as she had about 20 Division I scholarship offers.

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Finding the right program came down to a vigorously thought-out process.

“Honestly, it was a really hard decision,” said Neff, who also is an All-Metro volleyball player at Maryvale. “I had multiple DI, high-level offers and it had to come down at some point. So, it just hit me one morning and I woke up and I knew that I wanted to be coached by Amanda Butler and her staff. I was really excited about it and I felt it in my heart. I went for it and I’m really glad that I did it. I have no regrets about it.”

Neff has played varsity all four seasons for Maryvale, totaling over 1,000 points at the end of her junior season. She’s also a two-time All-IAAM selection, along with being her school’s all-time leading scorer and looks to add onto her list of accolades by the end of her high school career.

“My goal at the end of it is to have fun and to become the best player that I can the last time I get on the floor before Clemson.” Neff said. “It’s a big difference — a big change in scenery and I want to be ready for it.”

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