Clayton High School senior Gary Clark will be one of the most high profile area boys basketball players when the season begins this week. The 6-foot-7 forward officially signed his national letter of intent with the University of Cincinnati, turning down several offers from Atlantic Coast Conference schools, on Wednesday.
Monday, he beings his final campaign in Comet blue. There are plenty of expectations for the Comets who went 28-3 and made it to the regional semifinals last season and Clark individually – who averaged 24.8 points and 14.4 rebounds a night.
He talked with Sports Editor D. Clay Best recently about the Comets, how high profile summer basketball changed his perspective and why high school basketball is still important to him.
Q: What excites you about this team so far?
A: How ready the guys are to learn and to get after it in practice. How intense everybody is. We have no slackers. Nobody where you have to say, “Alright, it’s time to go.’ Everybody’s in tune and ready to go.
Q: What have you tried to improve on this fall?
A: Just really going (after it), like my motor, you could say. Playing hard defensively, talking a lot on the court.
Q: You played a lot of high profile basketball this summer, AAU/club basketball. Did that change the way you look at basketball?
A: Yes. Just seeing other high major kids and seeing what they’re capable of. It just really opened my eyes. I needed to see that, that there are guys out there who are really good. You can look on YouTube and see it but being on the court against those guys it just makes you want to go out there and get back in the gym, work on your game immediately.
Q: Why is high school basketball season still important to you? What does it mean to you to play for Clayton one more time?
A: It’s my senior year. I grew up here. I was raised here. Coming up in the community watching Coach (Denny) Medlin coach and watching him coach and accomplish all that he has and we have here, it really means a lot. Coach Medlin and I have gotten really close. And it’s going to be a great experience to go out and play one more season with all my friends from middle school that I’ve played with for so long.
Q: With your college decision made and the paperwork signed, you knew you’d feel some relief once that it was done. Is it more relief than you thought it would be?
A: It’s a huge relief. Knowing that I’m going somewhere where they’re going to treat me exactly like I was here by my high school coach. Just genuinely care about me and knowing that I can play and my family be able to watch me still is a big relief.
Q: What’s going to be different about Clayton basketball this year?
A: Last year, you could just say we had two snakeheads between me and (Anthony Gaskins) and this year we have a much more spread out offensive and defensive structure. And I think you can expect more out of the rest of the guys coming off of our bench and the other four guys on the floor who are starting with me. So you can expect a lot more out of our entire team.
Q: Is there a new guy or guys on the team that has really stood out to you staring preseason workouts?
A: The two guys who have really stood out: we’ve got a junior Xavier Williams who does everything exactly how you’d ask and he’s just ready to learn constantly. And another kid Austin Wolfe, you can call him the bruiser, just moved in this year from Virginia. Anything that needs to be done, he’s ready. He doesn’t care about getting dunked on or crossed or being smaller against big guys. He’s just going to get it done.
Q: Have you guys come up with a motto or a focus for the team?
A: We haven’t really come up with a term but one thing that relates to that is one of our defenses, it’s ‘Fix it.’ We’ve got guys coming up from jayvee who really didn’t run like they should have out of traps and at practice coach says, ‘Fix it,’ and we do it. So both offensively and defensively besides the trap, we just want to “Fix it.’
Q: Playing in the Holiday Invitational, like you guys will do after Christmas this season, in is that something you thought about growing up?
A: It means a lot. We played in it my sophomore season and we felt like we should have played in it last year but things didn’t happen the way we wanted it to. This year going back, my senior year, is going to be important. We’ve made a name for ourselves at Clayton High School so teams have to respect that. We play a couple of big time kids but the guys are ready they’re not afraid. It excites me that they’re ready to go no matter who we’re playing against.
Q: How do you avoid thinking about last year, trying to compare this year to last year?
A: We just have to look at it and just really build off of that. Knowing how far we went last year. How we’re capable of going further. And as long as we’re having fun and getting after it, we’ll be successful.
Q: Complete this sentence: The Clayton High School boys basketball 2013-14 team is successful if. …
A: We keep our heads on straight. Through losses, wins, just keep our head on.