On September 10th 2009, a young 20-year-old man boarded a plane from Warsaw International to London’s Heathrow Airport – and despite his 6 foot 11 inch frame, this young man sat in a Standard Class seat and no-one gave him a second look.
Dan Clark was with the Great Britain squad that lost all three of their EuroBasket games in Poland last year – but for Clark, he did not get a chance to take to the Torwar Hall court – as he did not play against Slovenia, Spain or Serbia. Despite him impressing in pre-EuroBasket, especially at the ‘Game-On at the o2’ tournament that was held at London’s o2 Arena – where he faced off against top European nations, such as, Turkey, Israel and Poland.
One year later, and the Greenwich-born player, is one of coach, Chris Finch’s go-to guys – putting Dan, who plays his club basketball in Spain, for Club Estudiantes – in the same light as team-mates, Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, with the latter going up against Dan next season in Spain’s ACB League for Caja Laboral.
“Dan’s been hugely instrumental in our success to date,” Finch told TalkBasket.net during the after-game press conference against Ukraine.
Clark has enjoyed his new role in the Great Britain set-up – and is seizing the opportunity following Robert Archibald and Joel Freeland’s decision to sit-out the 2010 EuroBasket Qualifying campaign. Averaging just over 15 points a game, this includes shooting 45% from three-point range.
This though is nothing new in the Clark household. Dan was brought up in basketball and has been around the game his entire life. His father, Mark coached the Great Britain Women’s side in 2006 where he was in charge for three years. His mother and sister were also keen players – the latter representing England. Finch believes that the 6’11 forward is getting great results out of him, due to the lack of attention he draws.
“He’s not drawing any attention out there because of obviously Pops (Mensah Bonsu) and Lu (Deng) and Nate (Reinking), so he’s just doing a great job of staying ready and imposing himself in the game without forcing anything.” Finch said.
“He’s got a high basketball IQ which allows him to be a very good passer; he knows where to be on the floor at all times.
“He plays a very opportunistic game for us, when the shot is there, he takes it, he is guarding well, he’s rebounding well. He has made a huge step forward from last year.” Finch continued.
Clark has indeed come a long way in 12 months, and his game-high, 23 points last week away to Bosnia & Herzegovina more than showed Finch that he is ready to step-up, should Great Britain qualify for EuroBasket in Lithuania next year.
“This team suits him a little better.” Said Finch, comparing the squad he had to last year, when they were in Poland.
“We (Finch and Assistant coach, Nick Nurse) asked him this summer to seize the opportunity and make it a break-out year, kind of like Joel (Freeland) did for us two years ago – and he has risen to that challenge. He gives us a dimension that we have lacked in British basketball, and that is a forward who can really stretch the floor.” Finch boasted.
Clark will hopefully build on his form with the national team to club level, where he will be at Club Estudiantes in the ACB, a league many basketball fans and journalists consider basketball’s best league outside the NBA. Clarke averaged just over four points a game in just over 11 minutes on the court. Clark will be playing against fellow colleagues, such as, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who has signed a deal with Euroleague outfit, Caja Laboral. Joel Freeland, who plays his ball at Gran Canaria and Robert Archibald, who has extended his contract with Unicaja Malaga.
Great Britain certainly has invaded Spain’s elite league, and a win at home to Hungary on Tuesday would inch Dan Clark and the rest of the squad closer to the basketball crazed nation of Lithuania. The only person that can stop Dan Clark from being a ‘Brits Abroad’ poster-child is himself.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net