SPRINGFIELD, Mo–The Missouri State Bears are in Des Moines Wednesday night to play the Drake Bulldogs.

In our Bear Nation report, Dana Ford’s troops will be trying to sweep the season series against the Bulldogs for a second straight year.

Both the Bears and Bulldogs are 5-3 in the Valley, in a five way tie for second place.

One big reason for Missouri State’s success this season has been senior forward Donovan Clay.

And his career with the Bears has been one of change, especially this season.

Two summers ago, Donovan Clay showed up in Dana Ford’s gym as the new guy on a veteran Bears team.

One year later, he’s Missouri State’s lone returning starter.

The old guy on a team with 14 newcomers.

”It’s hard for any program to get 14 new people. Try to get them to get together and get along. Play together well because there are so many new people. People do different things and play different ways,” said Clay.

”He went from being a role player to having to be a leader whether he wanted to be or not. Initially it was a little uncomfortable for him. But I think he’s gotten better as the year’s gone on,” said Missouri State coach Dana Ford.

Being a leader meant opening his mouth.

Ford needed clay to be a vocal presence on and off the court.

Clay:”I’m a quiet kid. I really don’t talk that much in practice. It’s been different….It’s a big role and a big step for me in college.”

”He’s a great person and he’s helped me a lot. He’s been in this conference for some years now. And he’s always giving me great tips to be a better player on the court offensively and defensively,” said Missouri State guard Chance Moore.

As Clay’s grown as a leader, his game has improved.

The 6-8 forward is averaging 13 points and four assists in conference games.

And he celebrated New Years by scoring his 1,000th career point.

”You love to do this basketball thing and then you get rewarded for it for 1,000 points. So it’s definitely a blessing and I thank God for that,” said Clay.

Change is something Clay is used to.

This season’s role change.

He changed schools after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at Valparaiso.

And in high school, his stature changed.

Donovan Clay started ninth grade as a 5-11 guard, he graduated from Alton (IL) High as a 6-8 forward.

”It wasn’t like you’d feel it. It just happens. I never really felt nothing until the clothes started getting little and stuff. You never notice,” said Clay.

For Donovan Clay and his Missouri State teammates, the change has been good.