#15 Wes Clark
6'0" 185 lb
I don't know Wes Clark the person, I only know Wes Clark the player. By all accounts, Wes Clark the person isn't a bad guy, but he's struggled off the court. Whether it was getting suspended his freshman year or his sophomore year, you had to keep a close eye on Wes away from the court. But where I know Wes is on the court, and on the court I loved this kid. He was a prototypical Detroit guard. Tough, physical, gritty, and not taking sh*t from anybody. Clark played the game with maximum effort and maximum heart, and these are a lot of the reasons why I'm sad we've seen the last of Wes Clark in a Missouri uniform.
Clark wasn't a perfect player, but he was a guy who wanted the ball in his hands late, even if he didn't always succeed. He was an average defender off the ball, but did a pretty good job on the ball. And when he was on the court, it was rare that he ever got outworked, and there aren't very many Tigers in the recent past who you could say that about.
The flaws in Clark's game came through the last few years as he was placed into a situation that he wasn't quite suited for. In high school Wes Clark was the captain of the ship who got everyone involved and chipped in about 12 points a game. As a sophomore and junior at Missouri he was asked to take on a larger portion of the scoring, and his ability to create shots was often bigger than his ability to make those shots. This of course causes his shooting percentages to... ahem, dip. I even devoted an article to discuss some of Clark's early shooting struggles.
Once conference play started, we saw the flashes of Clark that was building from last season. A guy who could create his own shot, was a decent 3-point shooter, and was probably the most reliable player on the team. But the feeling wasn't meant to last as Mizzou parted ways with Clark right before they went out and beat South Carolina. The timing was surprising, as the team seemed to have been playing better and there was still time to win a few games and keep what little positive momentum going. It was concerning also because we are all watching Missouri's APR number slowly tick closer to sanction-land, but Steve Walentik reported the timing of it actually helps the APR, as it was right before some weird five week cut off. So the Tigers finished the season off without Clark, and we'll see where the young man heads to finish his career, but I think we can at least take a moment to thank him for his effort on the court as a Tiger.
I won't lie, I've soured a lot on Wes Clark. I love his on-court game and demeanor, and he's been the lone bright spot on a couple of really bad Mizzou basketball teams, but at some point, I can no longer ignore the off-court stuff. It's not that I think Clark is a bad guy, but, at some point, he knew the scrutiny he was operating under and the requirements he'd agreed to. I can't keep calling you a good teammate if you get kicked off the team for something as dumb as failing to meet academic requirements, especially after he'd been benched a couple times for other bonehead off-court issues. I don't have illusions that the "student athlete" is anything but a joke to the NCAA revenue sports, but if you can't do the bare minimum (which is laughably low, given the support these guys get), then, sorry, but I hope you learn something and do a better job elsewhere.
When I look at Wes Clark, I see a leader of young men. He's the kind of player who goes out there every day and sets an example for the young guys in the locker room. You can see his efforts bearing fruit already. Following Clark's lead, both Namon Wright and Tramaine Isabell have decided that they too would no longer like to be part of the Missouri basketball program. That kind of decision doesn't come lightly. It takes some real conviction to walk away from a commitment. Without Clark blazing the trail for them, I'm not sure Wright and Isabell could have built up enough courage to pull the trigger. That's what a role model does, folks. Mizzou will sorely miss that leadership.
As with any player who is dismissed or elects to transfer, the lasting image is rarely something positive or even fair. At this point the feeling seems to be, as it surrounds Wes, is that of "thank god he didn’t hurt the APR" and "if he didn’t want to be here, good riddance", but what is being forgotten is that for the past two years, Wes carried this team. When Mizzou couldn’t hit a shot for most of last season and the start of this season, it was Wes who put up the points that kept Mizzou close/competitive/not a joke in those games, most memorably, Illinois, Georgia and Ole Miss.
Make no mistake, Mizzou is worse off today than they were before he left and I look forward to seeing what he can do in his senior year playing more of a complimentary role on a competent team than having to carry the burden of being the primary scorer on a bad team. Good luck to you Wes, and thanks for the three years.