Despite spending nearly 10 years bouncing around on professional football rosters, Cliff Washburn’s heart has always been with basketball. Now, the former two-sport star at The Citadel is getting an opportunity to make an impact in the sport he calls his “first love.”
Cane Bay High School announced on Friday that Washburn has been hired as the new varsity boys basketball coach. He spent last season as a volunteer assistant with the program.
“It’s really been a dream of mine, since I was a small kid playing basketball, to be a coach someday,” said Washburn, a 2002 graduate of The Citadel. “Basketball has always been number one with me. Even when I was playing professional football, I was finding ways to help local basketball teams. Football gave me some great opportunities, but being a basketball coach is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Washburn, 35, came to The Citadel from Shelby, N.C., as a prized basketball recruit. He finished his career with more than 1,000 points and more than 600 rebounds. He was persuaded to give football for a year, after his basketball eligibility expired, and ended up setting the school record for sacks in his only season on the gridiron.
His football exploits landed him several professional opportunities, first with the New York Giants practice squad as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He also played with several other NFL teams, as well as in the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe before giving up the game in 2011.
He spent the last several years working with various AAU and developmental basketball programs, which fueled even more his desire to be a high school coach.
Washburn inherits a tough situation at the Region 7-AAAA program. The Cobras failed to win a game last season, competing in what was arguably the most competitive region in Class AAAA. Washburn, however, sees plenty of potential in the program.
“It’s a challenge and there is certainly a lot of things to contend with, but I am so excited for this opportunity,” said Washburn. “I know the former coach (Calvin Craft) gave everything he had for the program and it just didn’t work out last year.
“I know what we face but I also believe we can be a competitive basketball program. We have some really talented young kids in the program. We have to work with what we’ve got. We have to get stronger, faster and develop our overall skills. With hard work, we can turn it around. I truly believe that.”