With college plans set, Cleverly focused on hoops

With college plans set, Cleverly focused on hoops
Butte High's Ally Cleverly takes the ball down court during the Bulldogs' March 3 Eastern AA Divisional Tournament game against Great Falls Russell at the Montana Tech HPER Complex. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

If there is anything Ally Cleverly loves more than soccer, it is basketball.

Or, maybe it’s the other way around.

The Butte High senior has a hard time choosing between her two favorite sports.

“I was always really scared that I was going to have to pick one,” Cleverly said following a basketball practice at the Butte Civic Center Monday night. “Since I loved them both, I wasn’t sure which one to pick.”

If you ask her at a basketball game, the answer she gives might be completely different than if you asked her the same question while she was standing on the soccer pitch.

“I can never pick,” she said. “It’s mostly the one I’m involved in during the season. It kind of changes every so often.”

So, when it came time to pick a sport for college, Cleverly made the obvious call. She chose both.

Cleverly will play basketball and soccer at Carroll College when her career at Butte High comes to an end.

“I was really excited when I signed for Carroll soccer and (women’s basketball coach Rachelle Sayers) kept talking to me about it,” Cleverly said of playing basketball, too. “I just wanted to give it try.”

The plan is for Cleverly to play as a true freshman on the soccer team next year. She’ll likely redshirt her first year on the basketball team.

Butte High senior Ally Cleverly poses for a photo between her future Carroll College coaches after signing with the basketball team last week. Head soccer coach David Thorvilson is on the left, and basketball coach Rachelle Sayers is on the right. (Courtesy photo)

Earlier this fall, Carroll head soccer coach David Thorvilson signed Cleverly to play for the Saints.

That came as Cleverly was in the midst of her second straight All-State season as a center back for the Bulldogs.

The defensive position that Cleverly played four years for the Bulldogs. She started on the varsity level all four seasons with Butte High, also earning all-conference accolades as a freshman.

Cleverly plays on a select traveling soccer team based out of Bozeman. The team will practice (usually inside gyms) on Sundays in different cities around the state during basketball season. The travel season ends with a tournament in Phoenix in the spring.

“I’m lucky my parents (Sean and Shelly) are willing to drive me all over the country,” Cleverly said. “There’s not really an offseason for me. It’s just really go, go, go.”

Butte’s Ally Cleverly kicks the ball away from CMR’s Emily Funseth, who was on the attack Sept. 29 in Butte. (Butte Sports photo)

A couple of weeks ago, Cleverly committed to play with Sayers and Carroll’s women’s basketball team. She officially signed last week.

So now, while she still keeps an eye on her soccer game, Cleverly’s main focus is on hoops. Next Tuesday when Butte High opens the season at the Civic Center against Helena High, Cleverly will begin her fourth season as a starting guard for the Bulldogs.

Cleverly has played in 61 of Butte High’s 62 games since the start of the 2015-16 season. She missed the one game with an illness just before Christmas in her sophomore season.

After back-to-back 2-19 seasons, the Bulldogs went 7-13 and came a couple of minutes short of the Class AA State tournament last season.

“Last year was a good year,” Cleverly said. “We didn’t finish quite as good as we wanted to. Our goal was to go to State, just like it is this year. It was a positive year to build off of.”

This year, the State tournament will be played at the Civic Center, which is why the Bulldogs are practicing in the storied arena early in the season.

Cleverly said the Bulldogs are planning to be there.

“We’re setting high standards for ourselves,” she said. “We want to playing here late at night with the gym packed in the State tournament. We’re just looking forward to it.”

Butte’s Ally Cleverly drives as Bozeman’s Hannah Wheeler (15) and Alex Carey defend during an Eastern AA Divisional basketball game March 1 at the Montana Tech HPER Complex. (Butte Sports file photo)

Since joining the Bulldog varsity for the first game of her freshman season, Cleverly has been setting a high standard.

She led Butte High in scoring as a freshman and a sophomore, averaging 9.1 points and 10.1 points per game.

Last season, as the Bulldogs became a more rounded basketball team, Cleverly finished second to classmate Brittney Tierney on the team with 8.4 points per game.

Through three seasons, Cleverly has racked up 562 points, which is an average of 9.2 points per game. She is 85 points from moving into the top 10 on Butte High’s all-time girls’ scoring list.

She’s made 85 shots from 3-point range as a Bulldog. That ranks No. 4 in school history.

Cleverly will also likely join the Bulldog top 10 for varsity games played at the end of this season.

A lot of those games weren’t easy because Butte High’s team has been amazingly young during Cleverly’s career.

“I only had one senior all through high school, and that was Abby (Dodge) my sophomore year,” Cleverly said.

They say you win with seniors in the Class AA, and taking those beatings during those early years was difficult for Cleverly for the Bulldogs. But as Butte High closed the gap and now looks to go over the top, Cleverly said those losses might help the team in the long run.

“You learn how to be mentally tough,” she said of fighting to the finish of a lopsided loss. “It’s mentally challenging just to finish it out.”

Then Cleverly smiles as she talks about how times have changed, as was evident in Butte High’s solid summer competing against many of the Class AA schools.

“It’s fun when the tables are turned and you’re able to play with those teams that used to kill you,” she said.

Butte High’s Ally Cleverly busts out of the blocks in the 200-meter race during the Eastern AA Divisional meet May 19 at the Gene Fogarty Complex. (Butte Sports file photo)

Cleverly is on pace to earn 12 varsity letters with the Bulldogs. She also went to the Class AA State track meet in her first three seasons at Butte High. She went in the relays all three seasons. Last spring she qualified in the 400-meter run.

In junior high, Cleverly was also a top finisher in cross country, and Cook said she would have All-State potential if she ran instead of playing soccer.

“Ally just has a build to run, and she’s a tireless worker as far as it comes to running like that,” the coach said.

Cleverly also has pretty good top-end speed, even when she’s moving with the basketball.

“She’s quick and she handles the ball,” Cook said. “In the open court with the ball, I don’t think anyone can catch her.”

Cook said Cleverly’s work ethic is key to her success. When the team conditions after practice, you better believe Cleverly is winning all the races.

“If you put her in a drill and tell her to go, nobody will beat her,” Cook said.

Part of that is her great physical conditioning. Part of it is her competitive desire.

“I try to come to practice and work my hardest every day,” Cleverly said. “I’m highly competitive in everything. Board games. Everything.”

She credits morning weights with Butte High football coach Arie Grey and working out with her dad for getting her in shape.

“I condition with my dad,” she said.

Sean Cleverly, an avid cyclist, is a former Butte High girls’ soccer coach, where he coached Ally’s older sister, Emily.

“He’s pretty good about keeping me on top of that,” Ally Cleverly said of conditioning. “I just try to not get out of shape going from season to season.”

In the classroom, Cleverly has been Academic All-State each of her seasons. She has a 3.8 GPA at Butte High. At Carroll, Cleverly plans to incorporate her love of animals into the classroom. She plans to study anthrozoology.

“It’s the relationship between humans and animals,” Cleverly said, adding that the field could possibly lead to a career as a veterinarian. “I grew up having dogs. I almost always had a cat, and I have a hedgehog.”

Cleverly said she is leaving her options open, saying she could also see herself pursuing a career in physical therapy.

Just like when it comes to choosing sports, Cleverly is never one to limit her options.

Who knows, maybe she’ll keep adding choices as she moves on. Carroll, after all, also has a track program.

“I might sneak a year in of that,” Cleverly said with a laugh. “You never know.”

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