As a basketball fan, I have always had a love for the lesser known, obscure and/or underappreciated. At school, when most kids were wearing Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan jerseys, I was wearing Bobby Hurley, Derek Harper and Dino Radja.
This is my open tribute to the lesser known players in today’s game. This is Spotted on the Pine.
Name: Ian Clark
Team: Utah Jazz
Jersey Number: 21
Rookie Year: 2012-13
The 2013 Summer League has ended. Some players like Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas solidified the reasons their franchises had high hopes with them. First rounders that went in the double digit range like Kelly Olynyk and CJ McCollum showed signs of being valuable pickups to their teams.
Then there were the guys that made a name for themselves. Such as Ian Clark.
Clark, a basketball star for Germantown, Tennessee, had a high school career that many would dream to have, being a star guard on his varsity team all four years.
In 2009-10, Clark would head to college and the Atlantic Sun Conference, enrolling at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. As a star attraction with the Bruins, Clark came out of the gates succeeding, averaging 14.9 PPG and becoming the A-Sun Freshman of the Year. Ian would be named to the A-Sun Conference Second Team and named as one of CollegeInsider’s Mid-Major Freshman All-American.
Bringing back the fire in his sophomore season, Clark led the Bruins to a 19-1 record in conference play, being the top team in their conference at the regular season and earning the title in the conference tournament. Clark was now First Team All-Conference and managed to be placed in the NCAA tournament, falling victim to Wisconsin.
Clark would dominate the A-Sun conference his junior year, once again making first team, leading Belmont to overall success and a tournament bid against the Georgetown Hoyas.
After being the top team in the A-Sun, for Clark’s Senior Season, the Bruins changed conferences. They were now part of the Ohio Valley Conference but Clark was not phased. In the first season in the OVC, Clark once again led Belmont to winning the conference in both regular season and tournament play. The finals would be a nail biter and a duel between Ian Clark and Murray State’s Ian Canaan, the 34th overall pick of the Houston Rockets this year. A fitting end to the season, as these two were named Co-OVC Players of the Year.
Belmont would be the first round opponent of the University of Arizona and once again be one and done.
Clark had senior year stats of 18.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and 1.4 steals per game. Player of the Year in the his conference. And on draft night, no one called his name. He had worked out for teams such as the Warriors, Blazers, Rockets and Bulls. But no one called.
That didn’t stop Ian. When quoted, he said he didn’t expect to get drafted but knew hard work pays off and started off for the Summer League circuit.
Clark was invited to the NBA Orlando Summer League as a member of the Miami Heat roster. In the Vegas Summer League, he would play as a member of the Golden State Warriors roster.
Clark had big competition in Orlando. The Heat would match up against the Utah Jazz and Clark would be paired off against point guard prospect Trey Burke. While all eyes were on Burke’s debut, the Michigan stud had a rough game. Clark scored 15 on 5-for-9 shooting.
Overall, Clark would play in twelve summer league games between two teams and two cities. Nine of those games, Clark scored in double figures.
The Warriors would be a tough team to excel on. Formerly Spotted on the Pine and bench celebrator extraordinaire, Kent Bazemore, would tear up Vegas and be named to All-Vegas First Team. He was a guard on the actual roster and didn’t play much with all of Golden State’s guard depth.
But it didn’t stop Clark.
As Golden State knocked down all challengers they came across in Las Vegas, they would find themselves playing against the Phoenix Suns in the Summer League finals. While the Suns had a rough season, over half their roster were guys with NBA experience and went undefeated in Summer League competition. Two guys who started for the Suns at various points throughout last year, PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris, were on the roster. Markieff’s brother Marcus, Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett, all with NBA experience were there. That didn’t account for first-round pick Archie Goodwin and last week’s SotP entry, Dionte Christmas.
And it didn’t stop Clark.
Clark came in and scored an amazing 33 points in the Summer League Championship game. He tied the Summer League record for three-pointers in a game going 7 for 10.
Ian was named the first-ever MVP of the Summer League Finals.
Now people were watching. Golden State didn’t need any more guards but the combo guard out of Belmont just had one of the best performances of the summer. Some of the teams that passed on Clark, such as the Blazers came calling. The Boston Celtics had interest, despite having way too many guys on their roster. Europe was always a strong option. Where would Ian go?
Just a few days after the commencement of the Summer League, Ian would find a home. The Utah Jazz, needing more help from guards, would grant Clark a two-year deal. Guaranteed.
With an interesting piece of hardware for his mantle, Clark is bound for the NBA. He should make it with the Jazz with their roster depth and that guaranteed money. Come the regular season, we will see when Ian’s name pops up next.