Oklahoma Basketball: The Curious Case of Cameron Clark

When Cameron Clark joined the Oklahoma Sooners basketball team, he was entering a program filled with turmoil.  The ignominious acts of former players and coaches had left the program in a bind, leaving them in the Big 12 basement, unfamiliar territory for this basketball-rich program.  Clark, a top-50 recruit, was expected to come in and give the program a much needed boost.

It was clear from the get-go that he had talent.  In his Sooner debut, he highlighted an impressive performance with a double-double, posting 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a 77-57 route of Coppin State.  After a less than perfect showing in the Maui Invitational, Clark got back on track capping off a solid December with a 26 point outing against Central Arkansas. It appeared Clark could be just the type of star that the Sooners needed to get back on the national radar.

Could this be the year Cameron Clark finally emerges as a star? (Photo from Soonersports.com)

Though solid as Clark’s freshman campaign was, it lacked one thing: consistency.  He would display glimpses of the star Sooner fans anticipated him to be; like his 25-point show against Baylor in January, only to follow them with scoreless, or, if you were lucky, 2-point outings.  The talent was there, but the stability wasn’t.

This is often the case with freshman however, and the Sooners were hopeful that next season Clark would make the big leap forward and become a reliable scoring threat.  He had all the ingredients, his athleticism and length in particular make him a nightmare to guard on the fast break.  He just had to learn to put them to use effectively and efficiently.

When Clark’s sophomore season finally did arrive, inconsistency was again the theme.  He suffered from what is infamously referred to as the “sophomore slump”.  Like his freshman year, Clark had good nights, but he also had just as many bad nights.  He failed to break the 20-point barrier, a step back from his freshman season in which he did so twice.  His PPG and field goal percentages decreased, and his other stats simply remained stagnant.

Perhaps it was adjusting to new head coach Lon Kruger’s system, or maybe a talented role player was all Clark was meant to be, but there was no noticeable improvement from freshman to sophomore years.

However, Clark ended the season on a hot streak, averaging 12 PPG over his final seven games, shining some light at the end of an otherwise lackluster season.  He provided hope that his transition between his sophomore and junior year would bring with it major improvement.

Now with his junior season approaching, this is a make or break type of year for Clark.  With the way he ended last season, there’s reason to believe Clark is poised for a breakout year.

For one, with all of the incoming talent, somewhat of a burden has been lifted off of Clark’s shoulders.  So far in his career, Clark has dealt with a supporting cast of limited depth and talent, and a lot has been expected of him from early on.  Now, as the Sooners bring in a group of talented young freshmen, as well as transfer Amath M’Baye, Clark should feel relief.  Knowing that he has more aid on the wings, there should be less pressure on him to score and he should be less tentative knowing that the spotlight won’t be on him so much.

Not to mention the experience Clark has gained over the past two years. Clark is no longer a college basketball novice, but a seasoned upperclassmen.  He will look to use two years of experience to his advantage, using not only his athleticism and talent, but his knowledge as well.  If Clark is able to do this, and keep mistakes to a minimum, he could be in store for a career season.

The main thing though will still be consistency.  It can’t be stressed enough.  We know that Clark is capable of 20 point performances, double-doubles and the like.  But if he were capable and consistent, it could propel him to superstardom.  If you’ve ever seen the man throw down a dunk, you know he is capable of getting there.  It is just a matter finding that groove, that confidence, that swagger, that will get him to that level.

Clark can still be that boost the Sooners were in dire need of two seasons ago.  The team has still yet to make a splash in postseason play.  With improvement from Clark, along with the returning cast and fresh faces, the team could make it back to where it hasn’t been since Blake Griffin donned the crimson and cream.  If Clark is able to make strides, it could mean a tournament appearance for Oklahoma.

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