King William RB Claiborne breaks down his OV to Virginia
When King William running back Demond Claiborne arrived at UVa for his official visit this past weekend, the 5-foot-10, 187 pounder knew he was going in with a few objectives.
By the time he left to head back home, he had come pretty close to committing to the Cavaliers more than once and he raved about his time in Charlottesville. It sets up a situation where, despite plans to take one more official this month, his recruitment is now close to entering its final phase.
“I was mainly looking to get to know the players,” Claiborne told CavsCorner on Sunday. “I wanted to get to know the players and the coaches and the other recruits and things. When I pulled up to the hotel and the coaches were all outside, I was like ‘Okay this is the place!’ I was excited, happy, energetic, ready to go. From there throughout the whole weekend, it just kept going up and up.”
Claiborne and his mother got to do all of the things recruits and families typically get to do on official visits, which is exactly what he had hoped.
“So we pulled up and got to the hotel and they had a whole bunch of cards and things, just a really great welcome,” he recalled. “Then we went out to eat, got to see campus, saw all of the facilities, we did a little bit of paintballing [Saturday], swimming, we rode horses, all that good fun stuff. It was an amazing experience.”
But beyond putting on the jerseys and touring the facilities, it was the relationship building with head coach Bronco Mendenhall and RBs coach Mark Atuaia and especially the time he spent around the players that really left a lasting impression.
His host on the visit was 2021 early enrollee Amaad Foston and despite being relatively new to Virginia, he helped his fellow running back feel comfortable. Foston, Claiborne, fellow 2022 recruit Will Hardy (who committed to UVa in April), and his host Chayce Chalmers all spent a good bit of time getting to know each other.
“We all just had a heart to heart talk yesterday,” Claiborne recalled, “about the recruiting process and things and he was just like ‘When you feel like it’s home, make the decision. Don’t rush.’ Him and Chayce both were just telling me the same thing. So I just had a great time with them fellas, especially Will being another recruit there.”
Home, of course, has a way of finding you. And that’s what was tough about leaving the visit uncommitted.
“Oh most definitely,” he said with a laugh when asked if he got close to jumping on board. “There were several times I’m just sitting there like ‘Bro I’m going to make it happen today.’ So, it was times when I was like ‘Okay D you gotta relax, don’t make a decision off of emotions.’ So I kind of just tried to play it back and be mindful of that. I’m definitely going to be thinking about that, though. For sure.”
After such a long dead period and being unable to take any trips, what was it like to finally take an official visit?
“It’s crazy,” he said simply. “It’s unexplainable. The feeling is crazy. But it’s a blessing, especially for somebody like me coming from where I’m from. A lot of kids don’t get the opportunities to go out and to see different parts of Virginia even though we live in Virginia. Everybody is kind of stuck at home base, you know? So going out and having these experiences, hanging out with Division I coaches and kicking it with the kids and everything? They’re comfortable enough to bring us in and have us around them and their families and we really don’t know them like that beyond the football aspect of things. It was amazing, man. Unexplainable. I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Virginia showed Clairborne how he would be used in the offense and that’s something that stood out about his visit as well.
“So mostly they’ve got me at the tailback position,” he explained. “But there’ll be times when they’ll move me to receiver, kind of like how they used Smoke (Mizzell). They compared me a lot to Smoke. They see me as that kind of versatile back, kind of the way Travis Etienne was at Clemson.
“Smoke is a Virginia guy and in the league and everything, it’s amazing,” Claiborne added. “We watched a little bit film of Smoke and they compared him to my stuff and I could see that it’s similar. He’s a Virginia kid, not far from where I stay. It’s crazy.”
So with one OV behind him, as well as an unofficial visit to Wake Forest earlier in the week, what’s next for the playmaking back?
“So I’m going to Vandy on the 11th and I may go to Purdue on the 25th,” Claiborne said. “But Coach Mendenhall, he was so chill. He was like, ‘Bro go on vacation.’ That’s what he called the trips, vacations. He said, ‘I’m not going to hold you. Just know that this is home.’ Talking to Coach Mendenhall, I can chill with him on that because he’s letting me go out and experience stuff.
“Like I told Coach Mendenhall and Coach Atuaia and them, I’ve got two schools that’s my top two: UVa and Wake,” he added later. “So those two are my top schools. I told UVa, it’s not like I’m deciding through 13 offers. It’s either UVa or Wake for me.”
The trip to Winston-Salem, despite not being an official, was also a very good one.
“So I had an unofficial visit at Wake on June 2nd and that’s why right now it’s so hard for me to make a decision between my top two,” he said. “The same feeling I got at Wake, I got at UVa. Now, UVa pulled me in a little more but I was also with them for three days on.
“Yeah but see Wake does their officials different,” Clairborne added. “They do it to where everybody commits and then in December they bring everybody down.”
The fact that the coaches didn’t put pressure on him to commit, in a round about way, made him want to commit more.
“Most definitely,” Claiborne said. “For sure. I thought I’d go in and he’d be like ‘This is all you need to see.’ But he wasn’t like that at all. Even at that point, I was looking at Coach Mendenhall and Coach Atuaia and my mom and I wanted to be like ‘Ya know what Coach? I’m coming.’ But for real, I really like Coach Mendenhall and Coach Atuaia and I could definitely see myself playing for them.”
Even without the extra time to think, he already has a pretty good sense of which way his mom would like him to go.
“I know she’s leaning more to UVa,” he said with a laugh. “It’s close, you know? But I think ultimately she’s like ‘It’s your decision so whichever is best for you let’s make it happen.’ But I know she liked UVa a lot for real.”
As it stands now, Claiborne said, he knows he’s ready to start moving forward with this thing.
“Most definitely,” he said to the idea of taking his time to figure things out. “My recruitment is coming to an end I think. My commitment day will be July 19th. So, before that, I’m closing my recruitment, probably after the 11th, after I go to Vandy, I’ll close it down. The reason why is because I’ve got the two schools I’ve set my mind on, the two schools I want to go to.
“I feel great, man,” Claiborne said later. “I’ve come a long way. I’m first generation college and the last big recruit from where I’m from was 25, 30 years ago. I’m making moves and changes and if I can stay in state and be a home-state hero, let’s make it happen. But since I’m first generation, I just want to take my time with it, take these opportunities, and just experience it. And then make the decision and get on it.”
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