At 7-foot-tall Cord Clemens was a hard man to beat and helped the Vikes win three national titles. Cancer took Clemens at 56 today from his home city of Toronto. (UVic Vikes Archive)

A giant falls as Vikes lose Cord Clemens of 80s dynasty

Vikes’ giant Cord Clemens dead at 56

At 74 years old, Coach Ken Shields was in Toronto on Monday doing what a true coach does, visiting his ailing athlete.

Cord Clemens, 56, was at home, limited in life and sick with cancer. He was coughing and wheezing, but when Shields left, the coach thought he would see his player once again when he boarded a flight home to Victoria from Toronto.

“It was a very jovial, a very enjoyable visit,” Shields said.

It was not to be.

Shields was shocked on Friday to find out cancer took Clemens’ life.

“He had a great sense of humour, he was fun to be around, and people who got to know him enjoyed his company.”

READ MORE: Two-time Olympian and Canadian basketball hall-of-famer Pasquale dies at 59

All of a sudden, within a span of four months, Shields has outlived two of his MVPs. Eli Pasquale, who was part of the first five championships and played for Canada’s national team, died from cancer in November at 59. Now to lose Clemens, who also centered Canada’s national team, so soon is something he says is simply “horrible.”

The giant seven-footer who played four seasons with the Vikes from 1983-87 was an integral part of the final three championships of the Vikes dynasty that won seven straight national titles between 1980 and 1987.

Clemens won his third and final national championship with the Vikes in the 1985-86 season and also won the Jack Donohue Trophy as the most valuable player of the CIAU Championship.

READ ALSO: Loss of Pasquale defines importance of national championships for UVic Vikes

That year Clemens was named a Canada West First Team All-Star and a CIS Tournament All-Star, which he won three times.

As a person, he was someone you liked right away, Shields said. But as Shields added, a basketball player on the national university level, Clemens wasn’t ready.

Shields and the Vikes were the class of the national basketball scene but it was no easy sell to convince the 7-foot-tall Queen Elizabeth high school player out of Surrey. Clemens started at Langara when Shields convinced him he could be a fit with the machine Shields and Pasquale had built.

“[Cord] wasn’t focused on being his best, it took him time, and at times it was a struggle,” Shields recalled.

Of course, Clements did get his game together and made the already dominating Vikes even more intimidating. He was the MVP, all-Canadian first team, first-team Canada West all-star.

But it didn’t come naturally, Shields said.

“He wasn’t a tremendous athlete. But he was a smart player, he had a great sense of humour, and he was enjoyable to be around,” Shields said. “In his case, it was a struggle. It wasn’t an easy process. But in the end, all that’s really important was that he learned to apply himself. And that’s how he played for Canada.”

From the UVic Vikes:

With Clemens in the lineup, the Vikes won the CIAU National Championship from 1983-86. When he returned for his fourth year for the 1987-88 season, the Vikes reached the Final 8 Tournament after they won their Canada West title with him on the floor.

Shields was a four-time CIAU Coach of the Year during his 13 seasons with the Vikes, before going on to coach internationally, including time as head coach of the Canadian national team.

The 7-foot Clemens nearly averaged double figures for the entirety of his career. After posting 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a freshman, he went on to average 15.3 points and 7.4 rebounds over 49 career games. His 7.4 rebounds per game ranked him seventh all-time with the Vikes. His individual stats led to great team success, as the Vikes went a remarkable 43-9 in conference play with him in the lineup.

After he graduated from the Vikes, Clemens went on enjoy six years with the national program from 1984 to 1990. His time with Team Canada was highlighted by a bronze medal at the 1985 Universiade in Kobe, Japan, playing in multiple Jones Cups in Korea and in the 1989 Universiade in Duisberg, Germany.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

UVic Vikes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sunday morning fire damages Victoria gas station

The fire on Fairfield Road caused $75,000 in estimated damages to tires and automotive equipment

Deadline extended for annual writing competition

Mail-in entry format makes Victoria Writer’s Society contest perfect for the times

Oak Bay deputy police chief and family cut Guatemala vacation short to return home

Belize border, punctured gas tank part of the adventure

Program makes a connection with isolated Victoria seniors

Phoning Seniors Together program lines up volunteers with seniors at Luther Court

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Most Read