Humble beginnings launched Gary Clark, who didn't arise as one of his North Carolina's glamour prospects early in his career. While some such as C.J. Leslie and Theo Pinson arrived in high school with great fanfare, Clark's profile began to soar only during his junior season.
At the John Lucas Midwest Invitational in the 2012 fall, Clark showcased excellent athleticism and versatility. He mostly slotted as a mid-major prospect at that time, claiming offers from UNC-Wilmington, East Carolina, VCU, Ole Miss and Old Dominion. Clemson and Wake Forest had become involved as well, a sign of things to come.
He posted big junior year numbers and went on to impress at the Carolina Challenge this past spring, playing alongside the state's best prospects and finally commanding attention of his own. He then hit the EYBL circuit with CP3, teaming with Pinson and others to help lead his squad to the championship game at the Peach Jam. There, in North Augusta, Clark saved his best for last and proved a more effective scorer than most had credited him for being.
With so many ACC teams inhabiting his list, the natural assumption was that he'd choose a league program, and likely one closer to home. And that may have borne out, but the Wolfpack picked up a pledge from Abdul-Malik Abu and thus no longer was there room for Clark.
But he hardly sulked. He traveled to Cincinnati officially in September and committed to Mick Cronin's program in a matter of days.
Clark has been a prolific scorer for Clayton (N.C.) High, but he's actually most impressive with competing with, and against, top national competition in an uptempo setting. On the trail with CP3, his speed stood out even compared against the hordes of other high-majors on the Nike circuit.
He possesses an extra gear in the open floor and, at 6-7, has the size to finish in traffic. He also loves to toss down slams and is an emphatic trailer on the break. Though slender now, he carries a sturdy, 205-pound frame that should expand to 230 or so over the next couple years. He must be careful not to add weight at the expense of speed, but his body type suggests he'll be able to gain muscle without sacrificing athleticism.
His natural attributes manifest visibly on the defensive end as well. Clark can defend many smaller post players yet also slides his feet well enough on the perimeter to handle some wings. While not a true perimeter player on offense or defense, at the minimum he should be an excellent hedge defender on pick and roll.
I've written repeatedly that there's sometimes a bonus to recruiting late bloomers or otherwise overlooked prospects. Clark didn't rise through the ranks as a golden boy of the class; he earned everything he received the hard way and will bring an unsung, battle-tested style to the Bearcat program.
His skill level requires significant enhancement. Clark is a 'tweener, not a combo forward, because he doesn't shoot or handle like a wing yet also lacks a back-to-the-basket game. For that reason he's best-served in transition and freelance, getting buckets on the break and on the offensive glass.
Because he's only 6-7, Clark likely will need to transition to the wing full-time in order to pursue a professional career. That process may take a few years, but even if so he'll contribute to U-C in the meantime based on sheer athleticism and effort.
At a certain point, coaches will insert a talented athlete into the lineup and let him determine his own position, to the extend he needs one. If Clark develops a sharper offensive identity, all the better. But even if he doesn't, he should become a significant factor for the Bearcats the next four seasons.