Finally comfortable in his body, NC State basketball’s Jack Clark in position to shine

·4 min read
Brian Westerholt/AP

The growing pains N.C. State forward Jack Clark endured had little to do with maturity. Now the growth of his game may have finally caught up with the growth of his body in time for the Wolfpack to be the beneficiary.

The 6-foot-8 transfer from La Salle, who has two years of eligibility remaining, is enjoying his first summer fully healthy since he began playing in college during the 2018-19 season.

Clark is one of four transfers the Wolfpack welcomed to its roster for next season, joining Jarkel Joiner (Ole Miss), D.J. Burns (Winthrop) and Dusan Mahoric (Utah).

Clark’s former coach at La Salle, Ashley Howard, said “N.C. State got a steal.” Howard was an assistant coach on Villanova’s 2016 and 2018 national championship teams and was the Explorers head coach the past four years before being fired after the season.

“They got a guy that could have been one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 next year, without a doubt,” Howard said. “And now he’s in a position where he’s hungry. He has all the resources that he needs to be successful. I don’t think Jack Clark really has a ceiling because he can do everything.”

But for two of Clark’s seasons at La Salle, his body wouldn’t let him do anything while it made a drastic change.

He was recruited as a 6-foot-2 guard. Before his senior year of high school, he had a late — and rather unexpected — growth spurt. When he signed in November 2017, he was listed at 6-foot-7. By the time he arrived on campus in the summer of 2018, he’d grown another inch.

“It was hard at first, not gonna lie to you,” Clark said. “I was a little confused on how to move, or how to be able to play my game and still do other things being 6-8.”

Clark blames that growth spurt for some of the injury issues he’s encountered. He sat out most of his senior year of high school due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee.

The rehab process kept him from joining the Explorers during that summer and sidelined him the first seven games of the 2018-19 season before making his debut.

His freshman year didn’t last very long. Nine games after he started playing, an ACL injury to the same knee happened and shut down his season.

And for good measure, he sat out the 2019-20 season too with the thought that he’d be fully healthy.

Clark’s third year in college was effectively like playing his freshman season on the court.

“I saw Jack a ton in high school so I knew that the talent was there,” Howard said. “But the biggest thing with him was just not having the opportunity to have a normal progression like every other college basketball player just because just because he was always battling injuries.”

Clark began to blossom once he finally was on the court. He maintained the skill set of a guard and can defend any position 1 through 4. In the past two seasons with La Salle, he averaged 11.0 points and 5.5 rebounds.

The second half of this past season in particular indicated Clark was finally comfortable in his own skin. He increased his scoring average from 9.9 points through the Explorers’ first 15 games to 14.6 in the final 15 games — including a career-high 30 points against Duquesne.

“It took a few months with me working with my trainers and some of my teammates just helped me out, but I felt like I finally got my shot down and being able to dribble and rebound at my height,” Clark said. “So it was good, but it was a struggle.”

Howard said there were games where Clark missed dunks because he wasn’t used to how explosive he’d become. He was higher in the air than he was used to being.

Those kind of adjustments should be over now. It’s the first summer of Clark’s college career that he’s not involved with some type of rehabilitation process on his knees. He’s been at N.C. State getting acclimated to his new teammates in his new body and hope it pays off when the season begins.

“This is my first actual offseason that I can actually work out in the summer, have preseason games and then go to the season, so I feel like I haven’t reached my potential yet,” Clark said. “This is probably the best I’ve ever felt.”

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