PORT ANGELES — Spectators learned to keep their heads up and out of their phones whenever Liam Clark of Port Angeles was on the floor for the Roughriders during his junior boys basketball season.
The 6-foot-7 Clark contributed inside and out, whether rebounding, knocking down shots, impacting opponent shots down low or maybe most impressively — swatting blocked shots rows deep into the stands.
“It always gets the crowd hyped,” Clark said of his blocked shots. “I enjoy the crowd reaction, everybody in the student section going, ‘Oooh, that’s sick.’ ”
But Clark’s not a one-dimensional player.
He defines his role as “playing hard defense, blocking shots, getting rebounds, boxing out and scoring whenever the opportunity presents itself.”
Port Angeles head coach Kasey Ulin said Clark was getting better and better as the season progressed.
“He is special,” Ulin said. Right now he has an intensity about him that is growing almost daily and that’s scary because he’s so versatile.”
Clark put up big numbers, averaging 10.2 points per game, 10.6 rebounds, 4.6 blocks and 1.2 steals and was rewarded with an All-Olympic League second team selection this season along with teammates Garrett Edwards and Kyle Benedict.
He’s also the All-Peninsula Boys Basketball MVP as determined by area coaches and the sports staff of the Peninsula Daily News.
Ulin said Clark makes his presence felt for the Riders.
“He makes such an impact defensively, he has great length, anticipation and challenges so many shots. He really protects the paint and rim for us. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds his sophomore and junior years and he’s on his way to shattering school records for blocks and rebounds.”
Ulin described Clark as an unselfish player, someone who would rather set up a teammate for success then look to make a big play on his own.
That supportive quality shone through when asked what he enjoyed about his junior season.
“I felt everybody on the team was there for each other,” Clark said. “If one guy got down, there were 11 guys there to support him right through the end of the season.”
Ulin compared Clark as “kind of like an old-school throwback Bill Russell” who is working to expand his game offensively.
When asked if there was an NBA player he patterned his game after, Clark replied with the next-generation evolutionary “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ 6-foot-11 forward who possesses the ball-handling skills of a guard.
“I really like Giannis, he’s obviously a lot taller and longer than me but at the high school level I am taller and longer than a lot of the competition,” Clark said.
“A lot of the moves he pulls off I can apply to my high school game.”
And Clark is a gifted track athlete for Port Angeles, competing mainly in the jump events.
“All that jumping translates to improving my rebounding skills,” Clark said. “Track jumping is a lot about timing, so it helps my takeoff point for dunks and layups and make pinpoint movements in the air.”
Clark said his favorite game of the season was an away win over North Mason in which he posted a triple-double with 18 points, 16 rebounds and 10 blocks.
“That game I had my first real dunk of the season and my first triple double with points rebounds and blocks,” he said. “That was a really fun game for me.”
And Clark’s embracing the preparation for his senior season and hoping the Riders can get over the hump at the district tournament and reach the state tournament.
“This is my last chance to do it, so I’m going to do everything I can,” Clark said. “We can’t hold anything back this year.”
All-Peninsula Boys Basketball Team
MVP: Liam Clark, jr., Port Angeles
Payton Glasser, sr., Sequim
Nate Despain, jr., Sequim
Garrett Edwards, jr., Port Angeles
Kaiden Parcher, sr., Port Townsend
Seth Johnson, jr., Forks
Ryan McCoy, jr., Clallam Bay
Jackson Foster, sr., Port Townsend
Cort Prose, jr., Forks
Braton Armas, jr., Forks
KC Spencer, sr., Crescent
Sean Bitegeko, jr., Neah Bay
Keith Johnson Jr., jr., Neah Bay
Cole Baysinger, sr., Forks