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Sports Sermon: The case for Jason Clark
If you look at the all-Big East preseason teams, you’ll notice that something is glaringly absent—there are no Hoyas in sight. Nobody expected much from this year’s Hoyas, which could perhaps be a result of their perceived lack of star power. But this season, Georgetown’s own Jason Clark has proven himself to be the class of the Big East, and, if he continues this way through the rest of the season, should be the conference’s Player of the Year.
Clark is the unquestioned leader of this year’s Georgetown team, but this alone does not set him apart, particularly for such a traditionally stats-driven award. But over the past few years, the Big East has begun looking at team success and then individual output when deciding the winner of this award. Last year, in a campaign where UConn’s Kemba Walker or Providence’s MarShon Brooks seemed destined to take the award, Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough emerged victorious due to his team’s surprise run to second place in the conference. Hansbrough, scoring 18.5 points per game, was a key cog for the Fighting Irish, but certainly not as crucial to his team’s success as the stars of UConn or Providence. If selection was based on pure talent and statistical output, Brooks or Walker certainly would have taken the prize.
This isn’t to say that Clark’s statistics are lacking. The guard is averaging 15.9 points per game, a mark that leads the balanced Hoya attack. But what should stand out to an observer is the selfless manner in which he rose to this average. The Arlington native always does exactly what his team needs from him—no more, and no less. After three and a half seasons under John Thompson III, Clark knows not to force shots and let the game come to him through the flow of the offense. This is summarily evidenced in the team’s win against Louisville earlier this year, where Clark allowed the hot hands on the Hoyas to lead, stepping to the side himself with just seven points in the effort. He focused his work on the other end, where he limited Peyton Siva for the majority of the second half.
Over the course of the season, Clark has proven his limited scoring output is a measure of his leadership and certainly not an indictment of his talent. Clark came up biggest offensively in games where his team struggled to break leads open, when he felt the onus to step up and create—26 points versus Memphis in Maui, 22 against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and a season-high 31 against DePaul in Chicago.
Clark’s senior campaign significantly parallels Jeff Green’s 2006-2007 season, where he captured Big East Player of the Year after leading the conference in exactly zero statistical categories. Green, like Clark after him, led the Hoyas and stepped up his own output when his team most needed it. Against Marquette this season, down as many as 17, the Hoyas came all the way back to win by three. Yes, the lasting memory from that game will be Hollis Thompson’s game-winning shot, but Clark single-handedly willed his team back—the guard took over whenever the offense stagnated, and scored 18 of his 26 points in the Hoyas’ incredible second half.
His attitude is contagious, and seems reflective of the team’s gritty, won’t-lose mentality.
“We’ve been in some tight games, and there has always been a feeling that we’re not going to lose,” he said after the team pulled out yet another close game against Rutgers on Saturday. “Everybody feels the same way, that we’re going to pull out a win.”
West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, Seton Hall’s Herb Pope, UConn’s Jeremy Lamb, as well as at least three Syracuse players, make this one of the more wide-open races for Player of the Year in recent memory. Statistically, Jones is the clear frontrunner at 20.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. He is a special player, and if West Virginia can keep up its torrid Big East start, the award certainly belongs to him. However, if Clark keeps this year’s resolute Hoyas on track in the upper echelon of the Big East, then it should be his award to lose. Like this season’s Hoyas, he remains an underdog. But, he can prove his doubters wrong, and wouldn’t have it any other way.