Big summer catapults Clark

There are good guards in the Class of 2013. There are few great guards. The separators between players ranked 5-25 on the point guard list are relatively indistinguishable in a broad sense.

While some of the prospects survived – and in some cases advanced – because of their solid play, the summer yielded few breakthrough point guards. One of them was Wesley Clark (Romulus, Mich./Romulus). Last week, Clark committed to Missouri. A Top 100 player, there’s more to his story than a number (ESPN 100 No. 71) and his ascension is worth a second look.

When the roster came out for the LeBron James Skills Academy, it’s fair to say that Clark’s inclusion was a surprise. Following a solid, but not spectacular by any means, spring EYBL run, Clark snuck onto the roster. When camp was over, a strong case could have been made on his behalf that he outperformed all the other points in attendance. He played his way into an invitation to the Nike Global Games.

Clark’s impact didn’t catch everyone by surprise. “Honestly, he’s always been very good,” Romulus coach Nate Oats said. “I’ve had four kids play on varsity as a freshman and he was one of them. On the court, he’s probably the toughest kid as far as a competitor.

“I had Ray Lee last year and between Ray, Wes and E.C. Matthews there was three really good guards and we had to share the ball between all three of them. Wes finally had his coming out party but it didn’t surprise me and my assistants.”

When a prospect is in the midst of hitting his stride, it’s not difficult to sense his anticipation. Clark was eager to talk about his LeBron performance but there was also an edge to him. It was almost as if he was saying, “what took you so long to notice?” It’s that competitiveness that likely fueled his run.

“He outplayed all of them, pretty much is what they said,” Oats said of the comments from the college coaches on Clark. “He’s fearless and relentless. There have to be more physically gifted guys but I can’t see anybody being more competitive. He doesn’t feel like anybody can beat him. When we go to campuses he feels like he’s better than the college kids. He relishes the competition.”

Southern Cal was the first school to offer him. Kevin O’Neill spent a day watching him last fall and was all in. “O’Neill liked him because he made everybody better,” Oats said.

To hear Oats tell it, Clark isn’t a fan of the recruiting process. Missouri head coach Frank Haith handled his recruitment and one official visit sealed it. Pittsburgh and Michigan State received unofficials but the Spartans couldn’t decide about an offer. “He wanted to get it over with,” Oats said. “The plan was to take visits to Missouri, Pitt and UConn but after he took his official to Missouri they decided that Missouri was where he felt most comfortable.”

If Clark is going to max out his career in Columbia, he can’t change. What he did in July in terms of toughness and tenacity has to follow him to campus. The chip on his shoulder, if anything, has to get bigger.

Missouri used to mine talent out of Detroit back in the day. It’s been a while since the Tigers nabbed Ricky Paulding and Arthur Johnson from Motown. If this kid replicates the summer he had in 2012, Haith will have a point guard he can rely on.