Eagles’ Strasner leaves his mark on the court
By Jason Farmer
There’s no doubt Hobbs basketball star Clay Strasner had a huge impact on the Eagles this season. The senior scored 802 points and grabbed 251 rebounds, as the Eagles tallied the most wins (21-10) for the program since winning the state championship in 2014-15 with a 30-2 record.
Because of his importance, and dominance, Strasner has been named the Hobbs New-Sun Lea County Player of the Year. Strasner has now won the award in back-to-back seasons.
“It means a lot. I had a good season and had a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a good year with all my teammates.”
“He topped what he did last year, obviously,” Hobbs coach Mike Smith added. “He took his team to the playoffs and he won the district (tournament) championship. He had a lot of support from his team, but he is just a special kid.”
Strasner was more than just a major part of the Eagles’ offense. It could almost be said that he was the heart and soul of it, and everything flowed through him. When he went down with an ankle injury in the opening minutes of Hobbs’ quarterfinal matchup against Las Cruces in the Class 6A state tournament, it was the beginning of the end for the Eagles.
Had Strasner not been hurt, Hobbs very likely would have knocked off the Bulldawgs. Despite not playing the entire second half, the senior mentioned how his teammates trailed by only four points late in the second half.
“It was real hard. It was definitely not anything that I thought was going to happen,” Strasner said. “I really wish I could have played the rest of the game and helped my team out in some kind of way, but stuff like this just happens.”
The Eagles sank 965 field goals as a team and almost one-third of those came from Strasner. Hobbs scored 2,350 points as a team, and Strasner accounted for more than one-third of those as well.
“He did a great job for our program,” Smith said. “I saw him as a sophomore and he was doing things. You could see he was going to be a special kid, but I didn’t know he was going to be that special.
“He was a great kid to coach,” Smith continued. “He was a yes sir, no sir, that’s how he got better. He took coaching better than any kid I have seen in a long time, as far as the Hobbs program goes. When you take coaching, that is usually what happens. Good things happen. He took coaching to the 10th degree.”
Only twice did Stasner fail to score in double figures this yeae. The first time was a loss to Roswell in which he fouled out, and the other time was when he hurt in the season finale. Up until that point, he dominated, as he scored 802 points and grabbed 251 rebounds during the season. His scoring average for the year was 25.8 points per game, which marks the highest by any Eagle since Jeff Taylor Jr. averaged 28.7 in the 2007-08 season.
“It was a great year and I was able to do a lot of good things,” the senior said. “My teammates helped me the whole season. Rae (Tarin), Alec (Finney) and everybody just found me in places and I was able to finish. They helped a lot more than they get credit for.”
Ten times Strasner scored 30-plus points during a game and twice he had 40-plus. As odd as it may seem for a guy who carried the load like Strasner did, the Eagles did not fare as well in the win-loss column when Strasner had to do all the scoring.
In both of Strasner’s 40-point games, the Eagles lost. Strasner scored 40 in a 90-82 loss to Capital and then dropped in a career-high 42 in a 78-77 loss to Oñate. However, in the eight games he finished with scoring in the 30s, Hobbs was undefeated.
Strasner didn’t just light up the Hobbs record book, he also etched his name in the NMAA book. His 306 field goals are good for sixth all time while his 206 free throws are the sixth most in NMAA history.
“It wasn’t like we were blowing teams out every game. We had to have everything he gave us to win those games,” Smith said. “That is the beauty of Clay Strasner, everything he did made an impact on the game.”
While he might not have won a state championship, Strasner was part of the Eagles’ Hobbs Holiday Tournament championship. Hobbs’ win over Hirschi in the title game was the first tournament title for the Eagles since the 2008-2009 season, when Hobbs beat Lawton. It was Hobbs’ 37th tournament title overall in the 58 year history of the Hobbs Holiday Tournament.
“It was great to bring that back to Hobbs,” Strasner said. “So many people come down to watch the holiday tournament, it means a lot that we could win it this year.”
While the Lea County Player of the Year award is for the 2017-18 season, Strasner had a great career at Hobbs. In fact, his career was one of the best in school history.
Strasner scored 1,590 career points, third-most all time. He also grabbed 711 career rebounds, tied for sixth-most in Hobbs history.
“It’s great that I could do all that, especially in a town like Hobbs where basketball is the main sport that people love to watch,” Strasner said. “It has the most history and it is great that I could do that after all the great players that came and played for Hobbs.”
“He had an outstanding career, quietly,” Smith added. “Everything he gave us, we needed to win those games. That is the big thing, everything he did was really to win games.”
The senior also was named All-Tournament Team for the Hobbs Holiday Tournament and First Team All-District and was a contender for New Mexico’s Gatorade Player of the Year, before his injury.
“I thought he was the best player in the state by far,” the Eagles coach said.
What’s next for the soon to be Eagle graduate? Time will tell. Strasner has plenty of options knocking at his door. Among those interested in Strasner are schools from Arizona, California, Kansas, Montana, and New Mexico.
“I am not sure (where I am going to college) yet. I still have to pick,” Strasner said. “I still have a couple of AAU tournaments this spring, so I am not sure yet.”
When asked what he was going to remember most, Strasner didn’t pick out a game or a win or any one particular moment. Instead, he said his friends.
“The team and all the fun we had,” the senior replied. “It was a really fun year with all my friends and all the fun we had through out the year.”