By the numbers:
- 7.8 points; 11 per 40
- 7.2 rebounds; 10 per 40
- 1.7 assists; 2 per 40
- 1.3 blocks; 2 per 40
- 27.8 MPG
- 52.4 / 0.0 / 62.5 shooting split
I followed the recruitment of Gary Clark very heavily once I found out he had committed and signed with Cincinnati. All of his highlights, interviews the whole nine yards. I was excited to see what he could do. I knew with Jermaine Lawrence transferring, and Justin Jackson graduating, the position of power forward was thin. Gary seemed to do it all in high school, I saw a stat where he had become the first player in the state of North Carolina to have a quadruple double. 22 points, 21 boards, 15 blocks, 10 assists. That is when it hit me, he was going to be a force at Cincinnati. Little did I know, or anyone know I think maybe outside that locker room, how good Gary was.
What got my attention really quick, were a few things. One of those was how well Gary would finish with contact. He came in with a great offensive skill set. He made a huge difference on the offensive end of floor. Numerous times this year where he went through stretches of scoring, and doing so on back to back to back possessions. The offense would sometimes run through him during sequences and that is a lot for a freshmen. The Crosstown Shootout is the example of what he meant to this team, he virtually took over that game. When UC needed buckets, they fed him the ball and let him do his thing. The shootout and the AAC tournament game were the two games where we really saw how good Gary can be, on every possession. What made it so special and enjoyable to watch was how well he battled through the contact and still put the shot in the bottom of the net. Gary averaged about 7 points per game, which was good enough for 3rd on the team most of the year, only behind Troy and Octavius. Cincinnati fans aren’t used to seeing freshmen make that much of an impact and having that finesse on the offensive side of the floor.
Next had to be his passing, you are going to see big guys who can pass the ball well. Only averaging roughly 1 assist per game, but the passes he made were just so well timed and important that it seemed like he did it more. There were times when I would pull my hair out of my head because Gary and Octavius would both pass a bit too much, trying to get the best shot possible. That is okay, but if you have a shot that you can make and you are semi-open, take it. However, the passing of Gary Clark was so exciting to watch. I would sit there and go wow, he can do it all. Cobb one of the smallest guys on the court, is in the corner. Gary would find a way to get the ball to him for an open three. This is another great tool Gary has. It is just one more part of his game teams need to worry about.
Best of the Best
February 18th vs. Xavier: Even though he probably had better games or more flashy games, his best game this year in my opinion had to be against Xavier. I think it was his best because it was his introduction to the meaning of the rivalry to not only its players but to its fans. Gary had timely basket after timely basket. The offense flowed through Gary for the last ten minutes of the game. Every basket he made was key that is why I think it was his best game. Sure he didn’t have the 16 rebounds like he did against East Carolina. 14 points and 7 rebounds for the freshmen in a game Cincinnati needed to put themselves in better shape for the NCAA Tournament. Even though it didn’t result in a win, the way he played gave them a chance to win that game. His basket with 1:10 left in the game to give us the lead was huge for a freshmen. He took James Farr off the dribble and put up a circus shot and made it. Gary Clark showed that he will be a force in college basketball for the next 3 years. (Video Credit to: Nick Colosimo)
For Next Year
Next year for Gary is going to be a big one. I think he needs to improve a few things, one thing would be his free throw shooting. Now that is always that way for big men, Octavius had a pretty good year at the line and Gary wasn’t too bad. Cincinnati isn’t used to seeing big men be able to hit free throws over 65%. Gary was right at 62.5. Definitely room for improvement there. The more he can shoot better at the line it makes him more of a threat, the guy sure knows how to finish through contact, giving him more opportunities at the line. Now he just needs to capitalize on those chances just a bit more than 62.5%.
He also needs to hone that mid-range jump shot. Gary showed signs that he can step out a bit and knock down the jump shot, but he stopped doing it more and more as the season went on. He focused more and backing people down and scoring with his back to the basket. It is another dimension to his game that if he can get better at, gives the offense another way to score. As well as another thing you have to worry about when it comes to Gary Clark. Countless time when teams played a zone against us and the ball got to him in the middle he didn’t seem confident in putting that shot up. I would think that will change over the offseason. Once he gets a bigger, faster and stronger.
Lastly, he needs to be a bit more selfish. I love the fact that our bigs (Gary and Ellis) can pass the ball very well, however they have the skills to be able to score on each possession. Both of them have the potential to average up to 12-14 ppg in my opinion. He needs to learn that sometimes passing up a good shot for a great shot doesn’t always result in points. Sometimes that good shot would be more ideal than the great shot. I think these are the 3 things he needs to work on over the summer.
Gary wasn’t as hyped as Jabari Parker or D’Angello Russell but he was easily one of the most efficient freshmen this year. He flew under the radar, but he won’t for his last 3 years of his collegiate career. Gary has gotten comparisons that range from Jason Maxiell, Eric Hicks, and Kenyon Martin. When you get compared numbers wise to those guys who are some of the greatest Bearcats to ever run on to the floor of Fifth Third, you are something special. The sky is the limit for Gary Clark.