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NCAA Tournament: New Zealand mass shootings hit home for Saint Mary’s player

Freshman guard Quinn Clinton is from Christchurch, New Zealand, scene of last Friday's mass shooting in two mosques that left 50 people dead.

Quinn Clinton is from Christchurch, New Zealand, the site of last week's deadly mass shootings.
Quinn Clinton is from Christchurch, New Zealand, the site of last week's deadly mass shootings.Read moreCHARLES FOX / CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Twitter feed of Saint Mary’s freshman guard Quinn Clinton was blowing up last Friday and it took him a while to understand why.

However, once it became clear to him that a gunman had killed 50 people in a mass shooting at two mosques in his hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, he went into urgent mode.

“It’s pretty shocking stuff,” Clinton said Wednesday before the Gaels went through their workout at XL Center preparing for Thursday night’s NCAA Tournament game against Villanova.

“I called back home straightaway as soon as I found out, talking to friends and stuff. I texted my parents. They were in shock but they wanted to communicate to me they were OK. Everyone was a little bit shocked. That was a pretty tragic event.”

Clinton said the University of Canterbury where his father, Peter, worked went into lockdown as police rushed to the scenes of the shootings. His mother, who works outside of the city, had to wait for an all-clear before she could return home.

“From my dad’s work, it’s about a three-minute drive. From my house, about eight minutes,” he said. “I used to play cricket right across the street from where it was, so I know where it was. It’s a pretty familiar area. It was pretty upsetting to find out.

“I played basketball with someone who knew some people in one of the churches, and some of my friends who play other sports knew some other victims, so it was some pretty tough stuff.”

Clinton, who said it takes him 12 hours to fly from northern California to his hometown, is one of 10 international players on the Gaels’ roster. Freshman Dan Fotu is also from New Zealand. There are five players from Australia and one each from England, Estonia and Latvia.

“It’s one of the reasons why I came here, familiarity with some of the boys,” Clinton said. “People reached out to me straightaway as soon as they found out on the team – all the coaches and all the players. It’s a great environment.”

Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said he spoke with Clinton and Fotu to make sure they were all right.

“It’s just a sad, sad event,” he said. “In life, you have to deal with those things and move on. We try and make sure are players are OK on those situations. I think they are. I can’t say, ‘Hey, everything’s okee-dokee,’ but I think our guys have done a good job with it.”

Clinton said he speaks with his parents every day and that “it’s a little different conversation.” But the shock nationwide continues.

“Everyone’s paying their respects,” he said. “I think it’s bringing everyone together.”

Clinton has seen limited playing time, scoring a total of 21 points and averaging 2.8 minutes in 21 games.