September 26, 2011

Clark Fitting in at Santa Clara

By: Gabe Taylor '12

A large banner of Steve Nash hangs from the rafters at the Leavey Center, commemorating his time as a Bronco.

It is only fitting that rookie Brandon Clark steps onto the very same court as his idol, the 6'3 Phoenix Suns point guard Nash, because it is who the Bronco freshman aspires to be.

"Since I was a point guard, I liked the way he played," said Clark. "I still try to model my game after his."

Clark was introduced to the game of basketball at the age of three. When at his grandparents' house, his grandfather would place a basketball in his hands. And soon he was putting the ball on the floor and racing towards the hoop.

He was awaiting the day that he would be a distinguished and sought-after point guard.  That day finally arrived when Harvard, Pennsylvania and Santa Clara – in addition to other East Coast schools - all attempted to recruit him.

Having spent the majority of his life in Indiana, the West Coast appealed to Clark. Throughout his time playing AAU, Clark gained a sort of familiarity to traveling.

"We traveled so much during the summers, I was hardly home," said Clark.

The long distance proved not to be a problem. Within days of arriving on campus, Clark had already connected with the university. The students, the coaches and the professors all instantly impacted his positive outlook on Santa Clara.

"Everyone cares about the other person," said Clark, keen of the overall support that Santa Clara affiliates offer.

When it comes to guidance on the court, Clark has to look no further than his own god-brother, E'Twaun Moore. A well-respected athlete out of Purdue, Moore averaged 18 ppg last season, picking up the slack after star player Robbie Hummel suffered a torn ACL. Following his senior season, Moore declared for the NBA Draft and was selected in the second round by the Boston Celtics.

Last season, Clark and Moore hit the court for a game of one-on-one. Although Moore had grown accustomed to exiting the court as the victor, Clark snuck away with the win.

"He'll probably say he was bluffing," said Clark laughing.

Currently playing in France, Moore plans to return to U.S. when the NBA lockout ends. Clark and Moore keep in contact multiple times during the month about recent developments in each other's lives.

Seeing his first action as a Bronco, Clark took full advantage of the playing time allotted to him. In his second game as a Bronco during Santa Clara's foreign tour, Clark unloaded for 16 points against Fraser Valley.

"It was a good learning experience," said Clark, adding that games this early into the school year are rare for many basketball programs.

But Clark understands that adjusting to the competitiveness of DI basketball takes time.

"Coming from high school to college I learned that you have to be more physical," said Clark.

Tempo and physicality remain at the core of Clark's training. Clark is prepared to do "whatever the coaches ask of me. Anything to help us win." But when it comes to playing team basketball, Clark is confident of his leadership skills.

"The strongest part of my game I would consider to be making other people around me better," said Clark.

He will put this statement to the test come November.

"We're capable of reaching another postseason tournament," said Clark. "I'll go with the NCAA Tournament."

Once the season begins, it will be up to Evan Roquemore and Clark to control Santa Clara's offense in an effective and efficient manner.

And if Clark ever questions his actions on the court, he can always look to the rafters and think: what would Steve Nash do?