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Returning Player Refresher: Gary Clark

Gary Clark has proven to be one of the most productive big men in the conference, filling up the stat sheet every chance he gets.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Bowling Green Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Clark’s first two seasons with the Cincinnati Bearcats have been everything the fans wanted to see. Clark has been a rebounding machine as well as a player who can really fill up the stat sheet, proving to be one of the most productive big men in the American Athletic Conference on both sides of the court. Clark's game has been trending in an upward direction since he stepped on the floor at Fifth Third Arena back in 2014 which makes his upcoming junior season something to look forward to. The junior forward will play the role of upperclassmen for the first time in his college career, which means we can hopefully count on him to be a leader for the younger Bearcat players and an experienced big man that shows up when it counts.

When seeing a player like Clark walk onto the floor at 6’8”, 225 pounds most people would expect him to be the type of player to hang around in the post and wait for the ball, but his statistics show that he is a very active player on both sides of the ball. In his sophomore season Clark's numbers were 10.4 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game, 2.1 assists per game, 1.5 blocks per game and 1.2 steals per game; these numbers prove that Clark is a threat to opposing players at all times on the floor. Digging deeper into the stat sheet, you will find that 3.4 of his rebounds per game are on the offensive side of the ball, which gives UC a huge advantage in the battle for second chance points. Also, a surprising number to see for big men is his 2.1 assists per game which illustrates his willingness to create opportunities for others and his ability to work in Mick Cronin's offense where ball movement is key.

Clark’s abilities landed him on a grocery list of statistical leaders at both the country wide level and the conference wide level. Clark ranked among the nation's leaders in offensive rebounds (28th at 3.4), total rebounds (57th with 290) and rebounds per game (65th at 8.8). He ranked among the league leaders in offensive rebounds (second), rebounds per game (third), defensive rebounds (fourth), blocked shots (sixth at 1.5), steals (sixth at 1.2), field goal percentage (eighth at .519) and scoring (29th at 10.4).

Clark also was named American Conference Defensive Player of Year in the AAC, which, probably brought a joyful tear to the defensive minded Cronin. The 6'8" forward has proven to be an asset in his first two years with the Bearcats, which make us all anxious to see what comes next for the big man.

Clark will certainly be one of the best and most relied upon players going in to his junior campaign. It is not a far fetched idea to believe that Clark can average a double-double seeing as his previous numbers are already so close to reaching that mark. With a young Bearcats basketball team entering the 2016-17 season, an experienced big man like Gary Clark can be a teacher to the underclassmen on how to fill up the stat sheet and fight for every rebound like its your last. His development as a two-way player will be something to watch, as he will be counted on to be more of a scorer in the front court. Some progression in his offensive game would pair beautifully with his already dominant defensive acumen. Either way, Clark will continue to be one of the top defensive players in the country and a critical asset for the Bearcats if they hope to be at the top of the AAC.