Clark goes from limbo to leading Buffalo to NCAA Tournament


AMHERST, N.Y. — The sheer poetry of the moment wasn’t lost on Wes Clark in knowing what final obstacle stood in the way of Buffalo’s senior point guard resuming his college basketball career after spending 21 months in limbo.

It came down to him passing a final exam in statistics, of all things. Statistics were something Clark was accustomed to producing on the court with a soft outside touch or an assist, and yet struggled with on paper.

“Stats was tough on me,” Clark said, chuckling. “It was one of the hardest subjects I took.”

He can laugh now, but Clark was filled with anxiety the morning of Dec. 19, waiting for his exam to be graded before he could be cleared to suit up for the Bulls at Syracuse that evening.

Clark passed, and off he sped in making the two-hour drive to the Carrier Dome in time to score 15 points and add six assists in an 81-74 loss to the Orange.

He hasn’t looked back since, putting behind the frustrations of how his playing career was halted abruptly during his junior year at Missouri because of academic reasons in February 2016.

Instead, Clark looks ahead to Thursday, when the Mid-American Conference champion Bulls (26-8) open the NCAA Tournament against Arizona (27-7), the South Regional’s fourth seed, in Boise, Idaho.

“Oh, man, it’s going to be special. Hopefully, I can get past the jitters,” Clark said. “I’ve never played in nothing as big as the NCAA Tournament. I’m just grateful to be out there.”

In 24 games, Clark has made up for lost time in helping the Bulls set a school record for wins and secure their third tournament berth in four years.

He’s fourth on the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game, and second in assists (5.3). And he saved his most impressive performance for last in the MAC championship game against Toledo on Saturday. With leading scorer CJ Massinburg struggling on a night when he would finish 1 of 7 from the field for four points, Clark went 10 of 15 for 26 points, and added three assists, four steals and five rebounds in a 76-66 victory to earn tournament MVP honours.

“He’s like the glue that puts us all together,” Massinburg said. “He has that ultimate confidence. … We just feed off that and follow his lead.”

It was the type of performance Buffalo coach Nate Oats saw many times while coaching Clark on the Romulus High School team that won the Michigan state championship in 2013. The league Romulus played in was filled with elite point guards, including Kay Felder, Monte Morris and Derrick Walton — all three eventual NBA draft selections.

“I wouldn’t trade him for any of those three. I thought I had the best one of the four. Still do,” Oats said. “He went to the wrong spot or, I’ll say, it didn’t work out. But I still think he’s got it in him.”

Oats left Romulus to land a job on Bobby Hurley’s first staff in Buffalo. Clark was a highly …read more

Source:: Nationalpost


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