June 20, 2013 by Jacob Freedman
By Jacob Freedman
Galen Central will be doing a summer series profiling USC’s incoming basketball class, including transfers. Our next profile is on Darion Clark, who will sit out the upcoming season after transferring from Charlotte after his freshman season. Read earlier profiles on: Julian Jacobs, Pe’Shon Howard and Katin Reinhardt.
Darion Clark overlooked Andy Enfield once. As a high school hoopster in Atlanta and at Oak Hill Academy (Va.), the 6-foot-7 forward was recruited by Enfield, both when USC’s new coach was at Florida State and when he made the move to Florida Gulf Coast. Yet, instead of joining the upstart Florida Gulf Coast squad out of high school, Clark headed to Charlotte. Possibly his biggest mistake, he says.
“He recruited me throughout my high school career,” said Clark, who will sit out the 2013-14 season after transferring in May. “I probably should have went to Florida Gulf Coast from the beginning.” Not to mention that Clark’s best friend is Bernard Thompson, the second-leading scorer on Enfield’s Florida Gulf Coast squad last season.
So when Enfield’s FGCU squad ran to the Sweet 16 this past March, Clark was among the few unsurprised by the success of a man mainstream America had no clue about in February.
“He (Enfield) told me coming up that he was going to get it done there (FGCU), going to make noise and turn the program around,” Clark said. “When he did it, it wasn’t really a surprise.”
Back in Charlotte, Clark had a solid freshman season, averaging 6.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. However, as the season dwindled, so did his playing time. After starting 18 games, Clark played just seven minutes in Charlotte’s two Atlantic 10 conference tournament games, and 14 minutes in the 49ers’ season-ending loss to Providence in the opening round of the NIT.
Combine Clark’s unease over his future role in Charlotte and Enfield’s move to USC, and the decision to become a Trojan was near instantaneous. Clark’s transfer took until in the end of Charlotte’s academic semester on May 14 to become official, and USC was the first school he talked to. He came out to Los Angeles, and five days later he became the first new addition of the Enfield era.
“Most guys transfer down or transfer across, and I have the really great opportunity to transfer up,” Clark said. “Coach Enfield has always been good to me. I felt like I should have been playing for him at Florida Gulf Coast, and I didn’t want to make that mistake again.”
In return, Clark will provide the Trojans with the same scrappy post presence that he showed at Charlotte. Most of his shots were around the basket last season, as Clark shot 54.2 percent from the field. “Right now, my game is just being a reliable guy around the basket,” he said. “I like to be down low, but I’ll really do anything I can to win the game.”
Clark considers himself a power forward, albeit a slightly undersized one at 6-foot-7. That’s why, for him, a year to sit out and refine his game couldn’t come at a better time.
He plans to use his season off to work on his outside shooting (he didn’t attempt a three at Charlotte) and his ball handling, and wants to develop the skill-based parts of his game to go along with his motor and rebounding prowess. An improvement in free throw shooting (45.7 percent) wouldn’t hurt either.
The year out will also ease the adjustment in uprooting from one coast to another.
Clark has been in Los Angeles before, for AAU tournaments and camps for elite recruits, but said the transition from Atlanta and Charlotte to L.A. will be a significant change. “It’s good to have a year to sit out, to focus on my grades and my game,” he said. “I’m going to miss mom’s home cooking.”
Along with Katin Reinhardt, we won’t see Clark for another season. Enfield doesn’t need another endorsement at this point, but there are worse things than having a player be over the moon to play for his coach.
“I don’t think it’s going to get any better than Coach Enfield, so I’m looking forward to working hard and making additions,” Clark said. “I’m just excited for USC basketball. Be patient. It’s coming.”
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