PORT ANGELES — The all-time leading shot blocker and rebounder in Port Angeles boys basketball history is the newest Clark College Penguin.
Port Angeles’ Liam Clark signed a letter of intent to play basketball for Clark, a Northwest Athletic Conference School in Vancouver Wash., in a low-key signing ceremony recently at Port Angeles High School.
Clark, a solidly-built 6-foot-7 athlete who will compete at the state meet in all three jumps for the Roughriders’ track and field squad this weekend, also intends to turn out for the Penguins’ track team.
The ability to compete in both sports at Clark appealed to Clark, as well as the opportunity to improve his skills in a faster time frame by getting more playing time than he was likely to have seen initially at a four-year program.
“I decided I would go to a [junior college] for a year or two and get my name out there more,” Clark said.
Port Angeles boys basketball head coach Kasey Ulin also got his college career started with an NWAC program.
“He’s been a pleasure to coach,” Ulin said of Clark. “He’s kind of been an unselfish superstar. He’s not the kind of guy who demands the ball but he impacts the game in so many ways. He can guard so many different positions — he just has unbelievable versatility and I’m excited for him.
“Liam is just getting started with his basketball career and he will develop at the next level, you’ll see the progression.”
Clark sent out feeler emails to NWAC programs that offer both basketball and track and Clark men’s basketball coach Kevin Johnson liked what they saw of Clark and invited him to send in film and come down for a visit and workout.
“[Johnson] said he was surprised I could move so well because a lot of the other tall guys he meets are sluggish,” Clark said.
“They said they are going to try and put me at a stretch four, develop my perimeter [shooting] game, my face-up [offensive] game. I’m not quite tall enough to be a back to the basket player [at the college level], so if I want to move on I have to develop my skills on the perimeter.”
Johnson said they are excited about Clark’s potential and believe him to be a good fit both character-wise and athletically.
“More than anything, his immediate impact at the college level will be as someone who can rebound, defend and block shots a little bit,”Johnson said.
“He’s got some skill offensively, that’s something he will have to work on and develop to be as productive as he wants to be at college level.
“Absolutely, we like his size and length, but 6-7 is not huge for a college player.
“Liam will need to learn how to play facing the basket a little more, become a more consistent shooter facing up, stretch his shooting range beyond the college 3-point line and make plays off the dribble, those one or two bounce drives power to the rim.”
Johnson said much of recruiting is about ensuring a good fit between player and school.
“Talent you can see in five minutes, but finding the kind of player that we want — and he’s a good character kid, a bright kid who possesses a desire to learn, a desire to be part of something bigger than himself. Those intangible characteristics definitely shone through.”
And Clark is excited to branch out on his own.
“A big part of [picking Clark is], I love Port Angeles but I’m trying to get out of town, meet some new people, have some new experiences,” Clark said.
Ulin believes Clark found the right fit.
“This is a better fit for him right now and long term,” Ulin said. “In two years you’ll see the growth and improvement. Player development is key and he’s a kid that likes to be in the gym, so he’ll able to refine his skills, put the ball on the floor better, work on his moves, his footwork.
“His length and skill set is already there, so with two years at that level, two years of focusing on improving himself and he’ll have a lot of doors opening for him.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]