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Clark Slajchert into portal after Penn career ends

03/14/2024, 11:00am EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Clark Slajchert had time to think about the end of his Penn career.

The Thousand Oaks (Cali.) native and Quaker senior guard returned from a month-long injury absence in early February, his team buried near the bottom of the Ivy League standings with eight games left on the schedule.

The initial goal was to push to make the Ivy playoffs, but it quickly became clear that wasn’t in the cards for the Quakers. Which meant Slajchert knew the end was coming, knew that there wasn’t going to be any madness in his March, that the game against Princeton this past weekend was his last time in the Red & Blue. 

“It’s been weird knowing it was going to end on Saturday for a while now, since we were eliminated,” he said by phone Monday afternoon, a couple of days after scoring 20 points in a season-ending loss to the Tigers. “So thinking about that and preparing myself for the end, I think, has helped me not get too emotional here. 

“Just feels super-weird, it feels like one second I’m here playing in college, it was like a dream, love everything about it, playing in the Palestra, playing for a staff that I love and with teammates that I love. It’s been kind of weird, you think that it’s going to last forever, and then it’s over.”

It’s been a strange run for Slajchert, who no doubt will go down as one of the more talented guards to come through Penn the last couple decades, even if the 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard’s final numbers in a Penn uniform don’t quite tell the whole story.

He’ll have one more year of college hoops ahead of him, but it won’t be played at the Palestra. Ivy League rules force him to finish elsewhere. 


Penn guard Clark Slajchert averaged a career-high 18.0 ppg this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Slajchert didn’t have a freshman year of basketball at all, the Ivy League taking the entire 2020-21 season off due to COVID. In the three years since, he played in 75 games with 50 starts, averaging 13.9 points per game on .464/.379/.855 career shooting splits. 

Statistically, Slajchert’s 2023-24 season was his best yet: 18.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 2.9 apg on .487/.422/.824 splits, all but the foul shooting the best numbers of his career. He hit a career-high 33 points twice, doing it against Colgate as a junior and La Salle as a senior, setting a new career high with seven assists this year against Belmont.

But in terms of team success, it was his worst. Penn finished 11-18 overall, 3-11 in the Ivy League, missing out on the Ivy League’s four-team postseason tournament for the first time since it was initiated in 2016-17. 

The Quakers went into the year without two of their projected starters in Jordan Dingle (St. John’s transfer) and Max Martz (injury retirement), then had another setback when Slajchert went down with a badly sprained ankle against Houston on Dec. 30. With head coach Steve Donahue relying on two freshmen in the backcourt and inexperience all over the rotation, Penn lost 10 of 11 games, including the first three after Slajchert’s return.

“When I came back, we were in a bad spot, but there was still hope and it was ‘all systems go’ to try to make that fourth spot; we just needed to win out, so it was just a ton of focus on that, on what we needed to do to make that happen,” he said. “A few weeks later, once it was clear that we weren’t going to make it, it was like, wow, super-frustrating, hard to grapple with, hard to even come to terms with. Through time you learn to accept it, that’s the reality. 

“And then (I focused on) enjoying the little things, enjoy [that] I still had four games to have in a uniform, enjoy the time that I got to travel with my teammates to tournaments and be coached by my coaches, and importantly playing here. Enjoy the little things about what it means to be a part of this program, which has meant so much to me.”

Slajchert concluded his Penn career with 1,030 points, becoming the 43rd member of the program’s 1,000-point club. If he were able to finish his career at Penn, he likely would have finished inside the Top 15, with a chance at being in the Top 10 (Stan Pawlak’s 1,501 career points are 10th.).


Slajchert has heard from more than 30 schools since entering the transfer portal. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Slachert’s time in a Penn uniform might be complete, but his time in a college basketball uniform is not. The 2020-21 freshman class is the last to get a COVID exemption, Slajchert graduates with one year of eligibility remaining, and he is a hot commodity for programs looking to add some experience, ball-handling and shooting to their backcourts. 

If Ivy League regulations permitted graduate students to play on their school’s teams, “I would be a grad student here next year [...] for sure,” he said, but instead he’ll have to transfer elsewhere. That means putting his name in the transfer portal, the new Wild Wild West of the college landscape, teams across the country trying to do their best to stay competitive even if half the roster departs in any given year. 

It’s going to take him several weeks to parse through his options, he said, with help from family, Penn coaches and his former grassroots coaches with West Coast Elite. Several Quakers have done this in the last few years, including Lucas Monroe (Drexel) a year ago and Jelani Williams (Howard) the year before. 

As of Wednesday morning, he’d already heard from more than 30 colleges, a list including the likes of Kansas, UCLA, Penn State, Virginia, Rutgers, Indiana and a host of strong mid-majors like Vermont, Davidson, Towson, FAU and more. Not all had told him immediately they had a spot for him on the roster, he said by text, but “the majority of the list, for sure” had done so.

Slajchert said returning to the West Coast for the first time in his college career would be a “plus,” but not a deal-breaker; he’s gotten used to the seasons in his time in University City and wasn’t too mad at the occasional snow day. After this last season, his priority for what he gets out of his final year isn’t tough to figure out.

“My priority is to have a big role, be a part of a winning team, a staff that I believe in and I think believes in me,” he said. “I want to be a contributor, I feel like I can help every team, I want to make sure I have the same vision for myself as the coaches do and help a team win. I think I can do that by playing minutes for a real successful program, whether it’s high-major or mid-major.”

“Being part of something bigger than yourself is what we all do it for, and that feeling only comes when you’re having success and winning games.” 

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