- 10.4 points, 13.7 per 40 minutes
- 8.8 rebounds, 11.6 per 40 minutes
- 1.5 blocks, 2.0 per 40 minutes
- .419/.520/.687 shooting splits
There's no doubting that Troy Caupain is the leader of the Cincinnati Bearcats. However, that doesn't mean he is the best or most important player on the team. That is no dig at Caupain, but rather a clumsy set up to this assertion: Gary Clark was the best and most important player for the Bearcats during the 2015-16 season. Now prepare to be dazzled by some numbers.
We’ll start on the glass, where Clark was as dominant as can be. He snagged 8.8 boards per game, which was easily the best mark on the team. He ranked second on the roster in total rebounding percentage (16.2 percent) behind Octavius Ellis. He secured 290 total rebounds during the season and posted eight double-doubles and 14 games with double-digit rebounds.
Then there was his work on defense. Teaming with Ellis and Coreontae DeBerry, there may not have been a more fearsome trio protecting the rim in the nation, let alone the American Athletic Conference. Clark tied with Ellis for the team-lead in blocks per game (1.5) and ranked third on the squad in block percentage (5.4 percent). Clark’s help defense and instincts to know when to collapse on a driver that may have squirted into the paint, helped the backend of the UC defense, which, as we all know, is what keeps the Bearcats in the win column most nights. To that point, he posted a team-high defensive rating of 91.0, which takes more than just blocked shots into account. In addition, he was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year and earned second-team all-conference honors.
Before you start crying "one-trick pony", let’s turn to the offensive side, where Clark may not have been dumping in Buddy Hield-esque scoring totals, but was still an extremely effective and efficient offensive threat. He led everyone in a Bearcat uniform in offensive rating (125.3) and fell behind only Caupain in points produced (368). One of only three players to average in double figures all season, Clark finished on 51.9 percent of his field goal tries, including a surprising 13-of-25 effort from 3-point range. Mick Cronin isn't going to start drawing up plays for Clark from beyond the arc, but having that little trick up his sleeve makes Clark even more dangerous.
If you are looking for weaknesses, there aren't any.
OK, that isn’t totally true, but the small holes in Clark’s game are just that: small. He is not the best free-throw shooter, but he improved his success rate from 62.5 percent as a freshman to 68.7 percent this past season. In addition, his defensive aggression can sometimes lead to a few too many fouls, as he averaged 2.3 per game last season, nearly a full foul more per game than he did as a freshman (1.6).
The Best of the Best
This is going to be a longer list than usual, so buckle up.
Friday November 13 vs. Western Carolina
‘Cha boy got off to a scorching hot start, scoring 21 points to go with eight rebounds and three blocks in a 97-72 rout. He made 9-of-10 attempts from the field in the victory.
Sunday December 6 vs. Morgan State
During another pounding (87-66), Clark posted his first double-double of the season, piling up 14 rebounds to go with 13 points. He also showed his talent in getting others involved, handing out five assists. Clark had at least three assists in 11 games and finished second on the team in dimes (2.1 pg).
Saturday December 19 at VCU
Do you think Clark was just posting numbers against cupcakes? Far from it. In UC's best win of the non-conference slate, Clark flirted with a double-double, putting in 13 points to go with nine boards. He also had one of his better games at the free-throw line, knocking down 7-of-8 at the charity stripe.
Thursday January 7 at SMU
It came in one of the tougher losses of a long season of them, but Clark’s 13 points, 11 rebound and five steals were a big reason the Bearcats nearly pulled off the upset.
Thursday January 28 at UConn
A 13-point, six-rebound effort may not seem like a real highlight of the season, but Clark’s heroics at the end of this one lifted the Bearcats to victory. Fast forward to the 2:26 mark to relive the glory.
Saturday February 6 at Memphis
We’ve all heard the phrase "stuffing the stat sheet." That’s exactly what he did here, throwing up 14 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. This effort came during the best stretch of the season for Clark, who scored in double figures in eight-straight games from Jan. 24 to Feb. 20. He also had four double-doubles during that time.
For Next Year
Clark is in a great position, as if he just continues to produce like he has been during his first two seasons, he will once again be at the top of any power rankings of UC players. If he’s going to rise from a super star in UC circles to a super star in the AAC and beyond, he doesn't have to do that much either. A little bit more scoring maybe, but as long as he keeps cleaning the glass, dominating on defense and helping UC win, its doubtful he, Cronin or the UC faithful will care what the rest of the country thinks.