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Adam 'Budd' Clark's evolution at West Catholic leads him to Coppin State

01/11/2023, 3:15pm EST
By Rich Flanagan

Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)

When Adam “Budd” Clark came over to West Catholic, Miguel Bocachica knew he had a guard who could put the ball in the basket.

As a freshman at Boys’ Latin, he averaged 11.7 points per game and finished second on the team in scoring. The issue was that, as the point guard, he was being asked to score more than facilitate. Only one aspect of his game was being utilized and there were more facets to develop if he wanted to play at the next level 

He made the jump to Bocachica’s program and entered the Burrs rotation with a score-first mentality.

“Obviously, he came here with a lot of points so we knew he could score the ball,” Bocachica said. “It was about helping him develop. It wasn’t easy for him to start as he was playing with skilled players around him and that was new to him, but he adjusted well and always listened.”

West Catholic's Adam "Budd" Clark committed to Coppin State last month. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

He was joining a team led by Eric Chamberlain (Albright College), Nasir Griffin (East Stroudsburg), twin forwards Kareem and Kaseem Watson (both at Cal State Bakersfield), Zion Stanford (Temple) and Anthony Finkley, now playing at Roman Catholic and signed with St. Joe’s. In one of the deeper lineups in the Philadelphia Catholic League combined with the fact that the Burrs’ season did not begin until February due to the COVID-19 pandemic and consisted of only 12 games, Clark struggled to find scoring opportunities but worked to perfect his craft as a floor general.

While he had a small sample of games in his first year with the program, Clark was blazing a path to accomplish his dream of playing college basketball.

“I feel I became a more complete point guard,” Clark said. “I can see the floor differently and my game has matured. At first, I was just scoring the ball but now I’m seeing the floor much better.”

The 5-foot-10 point guard with the nickname “Budd” saw his trajectory come full circle Dec. 24 when he announced his commitment to Coppin State. Two months prior, Coppin State head coach Juan Dixon called Bocachica during the Sunday night matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys and wanted to chat with Clark.

“We were having a party for the game at my house,” Clark said. “Coach Bocachica was on the phone with Juan Dixon, and he gave me the phone to talk to him. That’s when he formally offered me.”

It was purely coincidental that Clark happened to announce his decision during the second matchup between the bitter NFC East rivals, but he was ready to unveil his future plans. Clark had offers from Lafayette and Rider along with interest from Delaware State. D-II programs West Chester, Chestnut Hill College, and St. Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) had also offered but playing for Dixon — the former University of Maryland legend who scored 2,269 career points and led the Terrapins to the 2002 National Championship — was too enticing.

It also helped that Dixon played seven seasons in the NBA, but the seventh-year head coach raved more about Clark’s qualities off the hardwood than those he showcased on it.

“Coach Dixon told me he liked my character on and off the court,” Clark said. “He also liked how I’m a dog and lots of things like that.”

Dixon and the Coppin State staff never had the chance to watch Clark play in person and they did not formally meet him until he went on an official visit shortly after offering him in October. 

“The team felt like a brotherhood, and it was more like what it is around West Catholic. It felt like home,” Clark said of his visit to campus. 

Clark's game began to blossom when he began working out with Burrs' coach Miguel Bocachica. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

While he is one of the elite point guards in the Philadelphia Catholic League, he did not get on the Eagles’ radar until West Chester assistant Ben Kay passed along game film to Dixon and Coppin State. Kay and the Golden Rams were heavily pursuing Clark but – as West Chester saw him as a Division I prospect, Bocachica noted – the longtime assistant coach sent the film to the Baltimore university and things took off from there.

Coppin State wanted him, and Clark wanted to play in Dixon’s system.

“When I watched them play Georgetown, that’s the system I wanted to play in,” Clark said. “The pace and the way they play is the right fit for me.”

Clark perfected his craft on the AAU circuit with Philly Pride where he teamed with a multitude of Division I prospects in La Salle’s Horace Simmons (Drexel), Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Alassane Amadou (Marquette), Abington Friends School’s Ife West-Ingram (Rider), Academy of the New Church’s Bahsil Laster, and Penn Charter’s Mark Bulter, who took the Lafayette offer that was granted to Clark when he committed in June. 

At every step in his career, Clark has been a part of lineups with players who are taller and being recruited to play for bigger programs, but, as Bocachica emphasized, the point guard had a presence about himself.

“The first thing I knew he would bring was a swagger, mojo, and confidence,” Bocachica said. “He’s the type of kid that if you have on your team, as a coach you feel super confident going into any game against anybody.”

Bocachica was known for player development prior to his hiring at West Catholic in 2018 and he was instrumental in pushing Clark to become the high-level prospect he has evolved into. Once COVID-19 restrictions were pulled back, Clark and Bocachica would meet for individual workouts every morning before school at 6 a.m.

Clark had played a full season in the Philadelphia Public League then an assortment of games as a sophomore, but individual instruction was uncharted territory.

“You could tell he wasn’t a kid that spent a lot of time working out,” Bocachica said. “He spent a lot of time playing basketball. He was in three or four different rec leagues, so he’s just playing and playing. Seeing him in a workout versus seeing him in a game is like seeing two different kids. First, it was getting him to learn how to work out and the pace that he has to go at, then it was getting him to understand why we’re working on this or why we’re making this pass.”

The two covered every aspect of Clark’s game and areas he had never given full attention to, such as his shooting form. Clark can get downhill in a hurry and finish at the rim with the best guards in the area but knocking down open jumpers was not a consistent part of his repertoire. The workouts with his head coach started to comprise an array of shots with a focus on form and repetition.

“We would teach him why it was better to put a backspin on the ball when he shoots it,” Bocachica said. “It was all there, so I knew him as a basketball player, and he could shoot but he started out being reluctant to shoot threes. His pull-up jumper was money, but it wasn’t that he didn’t have touch. It was a confidence thing.”

Clark, who avg. 4.9 ppg as a sophomore, credits the vast improvement in his jump shot as a focal reason why he burst onto the scene as a junior.

“I definitely have more confidence in my three-point shot,” Clark said. “It was about me getting more shots up.”

He was the spark plug to West Catholic’s 2021-22 season that saw the program win 12 Philadelphia Catholic League games for the first time since 1976 and earn its first trip to the league semifinals since 1999. They also advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time in program history before falling to eventual champion and league opponent, Devon Prep. Clark averaged 12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.5 steals per game, and shot 50.2% from the field. He earned first team All-Catholic League and tPa. All-State Class 3A Third Team honors in the process.

It was a memorable year for the Burrs and Clark feels it ushered in a new era in West Catholic basketball alongside the Watson twins, Griffin, and Stanford.

“Even though we fell short, we made a lot of history,” Clark said. “It was fun having that experience with my guys and we’re hoping to make another run this year.”

Clark’s overall game matured, and his junior season saw him open up and accept constructive criticism that greatly benefitted his growth. 

“His confidence gave me confidence because he was a kid who wanted to get better, and he will even take time to sit down in an office and discuss his deficiencies,” Bocachica said. “He takes what he learns to the next day so as he was progressing it wasn’t like I had to repeat myself every day and I could focus on the next step.”

Dixon has not had a winning record in his seven seasons, but he led the Eagles to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season championship in 2020-21. Local products like Tyree Corbett, who played for Dixon last season, and Sam Sessoms, who is averaging. 22.4 ppg in his first season with Coppin State following strong stints at Binghamton and Penn State, have found success with the Eagles. Clark is hoping an underappreciated element of his game will get himself on the court like those two standouts.

“I can change the game with my defense,” Clark said. “I can slow down a team’s best player or get a stop on their best player when it’s needed. I can give my team energy on the defensive side, and they feed off me.”

His dream has been realized as “playing at the Division I level has been my dream since I was a little boy,” Clark stressed, and his progression into a savvy facilitator with a knack for scoring in bunches is a testament to the work ethic he developed working with Bocachica.

“All of this is a credit to his commitment and drive because this is what he really wanted to do,” Bocachica said. “He moved all his chips forward and trusted me and the process. He’s a little guard in a transfer portal world. For him to get this Coppin State offer and play Division I basketball anywhere would’ve been remarkable for this time and age.”

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