CINCINNATI -- Gary Clark promises no more Mr. Nice Guy from here on out. Well, he does -- in a nice-guy kind of way.
Clark is coming off his best game of the year as the University of Cincinnati Bearcats enter the Phase 1 of their March Madness -- the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Clark had 17 points and 14 rebounds in UC’s 67-47 win at Connecticut on Sunday.
Will we see more of that when UC opens the AAC Friday against the Tulsa-Tulane winner and going forward?
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Clark said. “At this point in the season, there’s no time for letting other guys get it done. I’ve got to get it done and make sure everyone is on board, getting each win -- one by one.”
See, Clark is never going to say: It’s my time to take over. I’m going to carry this team.
“Gary’s a guy who’s a reluctant star,” UC coach Mike Cronin said.
Clark, the 6-foot-8 junior from Clayton, North Carolina, is UC’s third-leading scorer at 10.4 points a game. He leads the Bearcats in rebounding at 8.0 a game.
Clark has taken 236 shots this season. That’s the fewest of UC’s five starters -- even though he is shooting the best percentage at 53.8.
“We’d all appreciate it if he’d look to score more, look to get fouled more, look to create more offense,” Cronin said. “I know it makes us a lot better.”
Cronin continually tells Clark this.
“Gary is a guy that’s hard to coach,” Cronin said. “Usually, a guy is hard to coach because he’s hard-headed. Gary’s hard to coach because he’s too unselfish. Usually, a guy’s hard to coach because he won’t listen to you.
“Gary’s the nicest kid I ever coached and the nicest kid I will ever -- ever. But it’s not easy because you’ve got to prod him to shoot the ball, you’ve got to prod him to be aggressive. I’d take that over a guy who would never listen and is a rock head.”
Clark’s nice persona was honed by his mother, Tammy. His 9-year-old brother, Jeremiah, is getting those lessons now.
“My little brother is seeing that now,” Clark said. “He’s up under her all the time. That’s the way she raised us.”
Jeremiah is a budding nice guy.
“For sure,” Clark said. “He’s a little more outspoken than I am. But I see it all the time. How quiet he gets around other people. You see other kids his age running up to anyone. He’s not like that.”
Clark and 6-9 junior Kyle Washington give UC two solid -- albeit different -- inside offensive options.
“Gary and I go way back,” Washington said. “He and I have learned so much from each other. Gary and I are two different personalities. That works for us on the court. I’m kind of an extrovert. He’s kind of an introvert. We feed off each other.
“He’ll come up whisper something in my ear. I’ll get him hyped up.”
Washington also doesn’t have to be encouraged to shoot. He’s taken 87 more shots than Clark, even though Clark plays three more minutes per game.
“You have to call Gary’s number,” Cronin said. “You have to get on him in some timeouts.”
Clark took an elbow in the face in the course of the Connecticut game. Cronin thought it was bad enough that he called the AAC to ask why it wasn’t called a flagrant foul.
Did Clark get mad when it happened?
“It’s frustrating,” he said with a smile. “But you don’t let it get it get the best of you. You keep going.”