Jack Clark (above) become La Salle's fourth member of the 2018 recruiting class on Thursday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
When Jack Clark plugged in the coordinates to the hotel his family was staying in as part of his official visit to La Salle, he noticed something.
“Our hotel was actually further [than my house],” the Cheltenham senior said. “I put in the GPS, and it said 15 [minutes] from my house and 22 to the hotel.”
But staying close to home didn’t bother Clark in the slightest. And his two-night visit to the school at 20th and Olney from Sep. 21-23 was enough for him to know he’d found the place he wanted to continue his academic and athletic career.
After thinking it over for a few days, Clark committed to the Explorers’ staff on Sep. 28, waiting until the following Thursday to make his announcement public.
“I kind of knew, like the day after my visit,” he said. “It was just a real home feel, it felt like it was one big family.”
Clark is the fourth commitment for La Salle’s incoming 2018 class, but the first guard in the group.
It’s a quartet that’s all relatively local, including St. Joe’s Prep forward Ed Croswell, Neptune (N.J.) forward Jared Kimbrough and Puntnam Science (Conn.) center Osun Osunnyi, a Mainland Regional (N.J.) grad doing a prep year.
Clark and Croswell were teammates this summer on the Under Armour Circuit, playing with Philly Pride, though Clark said the two have known each other for a few years prior to that.
“I’ve been talking to Ed, he really liked where he committed, and he’s been trying to get me on board for a while now,” Clark said.
Penn State, Dayton, South Florida and UMass were the other final four schools in the mix for Clark, a 6-foot-7, 185-pound off-guard who went from a mostly-unknown recruit to a hot commodity this spring after a six-inch growth spurt during the course of his junior year at Cheltenham.
The Explorers are certainly going to have minutes available on the perimeter next season. Point guards Amar Stukes and Johnnie Shuler as well as wing forward B.J. Johnson are all seniors, as is starting center Tony Washington. But Clark won’t just be able to waltz in and play, with plenty of other perimeter options still on the roster.
Traci Carter, a transfer point guard from Marquette, is sitting out this season and will have two years of eligibility left starting next fall; sophomores Isiah Deas (6-6) and Saul Phiri (6-4) plus freshmen Dajour Joseph (6-6) and Jamir Moultrie (6-0) will also be in the mix for at the guard and wing positions.
“I think I’m going to fit in well because of my size and athletic ability on the wing, I think I’m going to be one of the biggest guards, if not the biggest guard at La Salle,” Clark said. “I think my height advantage and my experience on the wing can really help me as my playing time as a freshman.”
Last year, La Salle went 15-15, including a 9-9 record in the Atlantic 10. They’ve been trying for several years to get back to the level of the Sweet 16 run in 2013, showing flashes
Clark cited head coach John Giannini as a major reason for his commitment.
“It was probably him being more involved with the kids and really helping and trying to develop the kids to help go to the next level,” Clark said of the 13th-year head coach. “And...I’m going to quote him on this, he said ‘I don’t want to recruit a guy who’s not going to like any other recruit.’ He wants one big family, he wants a team to go back to the tournament, and he wants to help guys go to the next level.”
As a junior at Cheltenham, Clark started on a Panthers squad won 19 games and advanced to the District 1 6A semifinals against Coatesville, before bowing out to NJIT commit David Kachelries and Emmaus in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A state tournament.
It was after the Emmaus game, in which Clark poured in 32 points, that he picked up his first offer, from Rider. When he got back out in front of the colleges in April, coaches were intrigued by his combination of size and guard skills, and he was offered by 14 different programs by the first few days of May, with a few more coming on throughout the summer.
“It was a crazy experience,” he said. “Everybody kept telling me to get in the weight room or get stronger or I might not be Division I...not everybody expected me to have 16 Division I offers like I did.”