The Norman Transcript

December 21, 2013

It was Aggies that helped Clark realize potential

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Cameron Clark’s basketball career is nowhere near over. There will be plenty of time for reflection when it’s done. But one of those games that will produce memories that shouldn’t quickly fade came last December against Texas A&M.

“Didn’t we win the game?” Clark said when the topic was first broached.

The Sooners did, 64-54, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Clark was the difference, coming off the bench to score 17 points en route to an MVP award in the 2012 All-College Classic. That game was a career-changing afternoon for him.

Clark had showed the ability to score well before then. The 17 points weren’t even a career high. It was how he did it.

OU coach Lon Kruger inserted the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Clark at the power forward spot against the Aggies. The experiment was to see what he could do against bigger defenders. He made open jumpers when they didn’t follow him out to the perimeter and drove by them when they did.

It was an experiment Kruger had been waiting to conduct since the season began.

“We knew Cam had those kinds of skills, but that was the first game he — consistently, possession after possession — took advantage of it. And that’s why he got the results he got in that ball game,” he said. “It was great to see.”

The Aggies (8-2) will see it again when they face OU (10-1) at 6 p.m. today at the Toyota Center in Houston.

But there will be major differences. Last year’s meeting was a case of Clark emerging from his shell. You could see his confidence grow throughout the game because it wasn’t there at the start.

Clark had been a perimeter player throughout his entire basketball life. The idea of going nose to nose with true power forwards was foreign to him.

“It was different, but I wasn’t going to argue because that’s what the team needed at the time,” he said.

But he fully understood the rationale. Kruger was trying to create a mismatch Clark could exploit.

“I could see where it opened up a lot of opportunities. It allowed me to attack the bigs. Coach kept telling me to be aggressive and play my game and that’s what I did. I got off to a good start.”

That game was a major reason Kruger believed Clark was a player he could build this year’s team around. There’s no doubt it’s paid off. Clark has gotten off to a great start this season. He’s averaging a Big 12-leading 18.9 points a game.

The difference tonight in what Clark can do will not be a surprise. The Aggies’ defensive game plan will be built around at least slowing Clark.

The confidence, however, isn’t going away. The reason Clark should always remember that 2012 meeting with the Aggies is because it changed the complexion of his career.

At least, that’s the way Kruger remembers it.

“I think that was a game where he came out a little and bucked up a little bit and said, hey, I can do this,” Kruger said.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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