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Gary Clark Needs to Step Up for Bearcats to Advance

Every Bearcat needs to be at their best, but Clark could be the most critical contributor.

NCAA Basketball: Central Florida at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Mick Cronin has made no secret that he wants Gary Clark to become more aggressive. He’s repeatedly said in postgame press conferences that he’d like for Clark to be a meaner presence on the court, and less unselfish. He’s called him a “reluctant star” at times, but not without also acknowledging that his reserved personality has helped make the team better in some ways.

Early in the year it was Clark’s unselfishness that gave Kyle Washington a chance to star in November and December. The Bearcats have never had two dynamic interior scorers like Clark and Washington, and it was Clark who willingly stepped back to allow Washington a chance to find his place in the offense. The two have developed a chemistry in the post, and often are able to find each other for open baskets thanks to their exceptional passing ability.

Unfortunately, the presence of so many scoring options has limited Clark’s ascension. While he may not have quite the nose for rebounding of Danny Fortson, the sheer power of Eric Hicks or Jason Maxiell, or the raw talent of Kenyon Martin, he is a more skilled shooter and passer than all three, and he’s at least average or above average in all of those other categories. On a different team, Clark could average 20 points a game, and someone, somewhere is going to pay him to play basketball professional one day. He has the talent, he just has to unleash it, and he has to do it on a big stage like the NCAA tournament.

So far this season Clark has disappeared offensively in several big games. He scored just four points and took only five shots in a loss to Rhode Island. He scored only three points, taking four shots in a loss to UCF. n the last two games against SMU he averaged just 9.0 points per game, taking only 7.5 shots. This is a guy that shoots 53 percent from the floor. If anyone should be taking more shots for the Bearcats, it’s Gary Clark.

I feel the need to stress the word ‘offense’ here. There’s no doubt that Clark is trying his absolute hardest on every possession. He’s an excellent defensive player and consistently holds the opposing bigs to subpar games. He’s a great teammate on the court, setting picks and grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds. There’s much more to the game of basketball than offense, and Clark excels at all of these things. What I’m looking for out of Clark is what we saw in the Connecticut game. What we saw in the Marshall game. He needs to impose his will on whichever team Cincinnati ends up playing on Friday. I need to see #GaryClarkIsAProblem trending on Twitter on Friday night.

Two years ago, in the loss to Kentucky, Clark scored just two points on four shots and the Bearcats scored only 51 points. Last year in the loss to Saint Joseph’s, Clark scored just two points on three shots. He’s too good, and too talented to allow that to happen again. Gary Clark needs to be a problem on Friday night. If not, the Bearcats season will likely be over.