Sunday, April 26, 2009

Farewell to Villanova Wildcats Seniors - Shane Clark's Arrival and Freshman Season

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

As graduation approaches at Villanova University for the Class of 2009, I'll be doing a series of farewells to our four Villanova Wildcat seniors, as we look back on their tenures on the Main Line. I'll start today with the arrival and freshman season of senior Shane Clark...

Shane Clark's Background

Clark played for two seasons at Cardinal Dougherty, in the Olney section of Philadelphia, in 2004, where he was a teammate of another future Wildcat, Kyle Lowry, now in the NBA. (Lowry was the 2004 Pennsylvania Player of the Year, while Clark was there.)

Clark averaged a double-double (15 points/11 rebounds) and also four swats a game, under the longtime Catholic League fixture Mark Heimerdinger. Clark then took a postgraduate year at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., to improve his academic standing.

Clark got a late start at Villanova. He was only eligible to play at the end of the first semester of his freshman season (2005-06). Since it's tricky to follow, the easiest way to describe the complicated story of what happened regarding his arrival, is simply to quote DraftExpress....
A storyline worth keeping an eye on is the seemingly endless saga of Philly combo forward Shane Clark. He originally committed to Jay Wright, but then was forced to take a prep year and switched his allegiance to Maryland. When a clearinghouse error made him ineligible at Maryland, he set his sights on the Wildcats again. While he hasn’t made it through the clearinghouse yet, Clark is ready to enroll at Villanova for the spring semester. If he does indeed make it onto the court, he could step right into Sumpter’s role as an athletic, versatile frontcourt presence.

This prognosticator was ready to anoint Villanova as the Big East’s preseason favorite. The way that these guards play is simply too exciting to ignore, and it looked like a few of the big men were ready to step up and hold their own. The possibility of a healthy Jason Fraser was truly exciting. Unfortunately, that all went out the window with the loss of Sumpter. He fit in too well with Wright’s perimeter-oriented attack, and it is highly doubtful that anybody else on the roster will come close to matching his production. Villanova’s season may now rest on the fragile knees of Jason Fraser, or unproven newcomers like Dante Cunningham or Shane Clark. In the end, it’s just hard to be as optimistic about Villanova’s chances as we were just last week.

The question of Clark surviving the clearinghouse sluice was very much up in the air. The situation was so precarious, in fact, that the 2005-06 Villanova Wildcats media guide - which includes his fellow class of 2009ers Dwayne Anderson, Dante Cunningham, Frank Tchuisi, and the eventual transfer Bilal Benn - didn't even have a profile of Clark.

But it all worked out, and Clark was eligible come the end of the first semester. Accordingly, Clark made his Villanova debut against Temple on New Year's Eve, 2005-06 - the first game since the end of the Fall 2005 academic semester.

Clark didn't play all that much, during his first year, for two reasons:
  1. He wasn't eligible till New Year's Eve, thus losing time in the rotation;
  2. It was Wright's best and most talented Wildcats team. It eventually captured a top NCAA tournament seed, and reached the Elite Eight, the first time that Villanova had done so in two decades. So a late-arriving, unheralded freshman got short shrift, when it came to minutes.
As a result, he logged just 286 minutes all season. However, he played more than that stat would indicate, since by rule, he was only able to participate in 25 games - he averaged 11.4 minutes/contest.

In addition, Clark was a significant role player. Along with Dante Cunningham, Jay Wright would judiciously use Clark for defensive purposes, as there were plenty of scorers on that team. And both freshman defensive specialists helped to create one of the best teams in Villanova's illustrious history. This was particularly true down the stretch and in the 2006 NCAA tournament, as Clark's minutes increased sharply in February and March.

Highlights of Clark's Freshman Season, Game by Game
  • In the debut against Temple, he played 10 minutes, scoring two points, grabbing four rebounds, blocking two shots, committing two turnovers, and amazingly, accummulating four fouls.
  • After seeing just six minutes against Louisville, he set what would be a season-high in points against West Virginia, where he played only 11 minutes, but scored nine points while making all four field goal attempts. One was his first collegiate three-point shot, according to the Villanova media guide.
  • For the next four games, he played sparingly - 23 total minutes, six total points, five total rebounds.
  • He then saw the highest minutes of his young career, logging 19 minutes and pulling down five rebounds against South Florida.
  • Notre Dame - he had ten minutes and two rebounds.
  • He set a new high in minutes with 23, in the second game against Louisville, finishing with three rebounds (and three fouls), and no points. And as the Villanova media guide puts it-
    Brought energy in his 23 minutes, keeping several loose balls alive en route to three rebounds in a 79-73 win over Louisville.
  • Marquette - he played just six minutes.
  • But then, Clark played a key role against St. Joseph's in the Holy War - 18 minutes, six points, five rebounds, and a blocked shot, prior to fouling out for the first time - and Villanova won 71-58.
  • DePaul - Clark played a dozen minutes, had a pair of rebounds, but did not score.
This was the beginning of a downturn in Clark's minutes. Over the next four games - two against Connecticut, Georgetown, and Cincinnati - Clark played only 20 minutes, with four points and two rebounds.
  • However, as the Villanova media guide puts it, he made a big contribution against the Bearcats - Clark
    "drew a critical charging foul with 35 seconds left that gave VU possession in a 74-72 win @ Cincinnati on Feb. 23."
Then, for the next seven games, Clark reached double-digits in minutes.
  • St. John's - Clark logged 16 minutes, with two points and two boards.
  • Syracuse - he had one of his best games of the season, with a then-career-high 21 minutes, plus seven points, three rebounds (and four fouls).
  • Rutgers - Clark had 14 minutes, one point, two rebounds.
  • Pittsburgh - 20 minutes - and coincidentally, one point, two rebounds.
In the NCAA tournament, here were Clark's appearances in Villanova's three victories and Elite Eight loss:
  1. #16 Monmouth at the Wachovia Center - 10 minutes, three points, four rebounds, one block and one steal.
  2. #9 Arizona at the Wachovia Center - 17 minutes, one point, two rebounds, four fouls.
  3. #4 Boston College - in one of my favorite Villanova NCAA tournament games, 14 minutes, three points, one rebound.
  4. #2 Florida - Clark's minutes dropped, probably because it was a loss. He played only six minutes - his lowest in eight games - but had two points and four rebounds.
Check back, as I continue the series of Farewells to the Senior Villanova Wildcats... and also check out the worthwhile Villanova Wildcats blogs on the right sidebar.

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