Karron Clarke: Heart and Soul

One of the bright spots for the DePaul Blue Demons last season was the play of sophomore transfer Karron Clarke. Karron was a steady and consistent contributor for Jerry Wainwright's squad. Clarke came in after sitting out the 2004-05 season following his transfer from Miami.

In his freshman season at Miami, Clarke saw little playing time for the Hurricanes and averaged 3.1 points per game and 2.2 rebounds per game. After Miami coach Perry Clark's firing, Karron decided to transfer to DePaul to play for Dave Leitao.

Few expected Clarke to contribute as much as he did in his first year with the Blue Demons. Karron averaged 10 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. He also was the team's leading shooter from beyond the three point arc. Clarke knocked down 35 trifectas and shot .427 percent on threes.

Clarke is just one of two players who have played for two different schools in the Big East conference. The other being Ray Knight who played for Georgetown and Providence in the 1980's. As the Blue Demons moved from Conference USA to the Big East last season, Clarke was the only member of the team with Big East playing experience. He mentored his teammates on playing in the league. "I told them all the time that it's a more physical league than Conference USA," said Clarke. "The referees don't call as many fouls. I told them be ready and bring their ‘A' game everyday. Pretty much that's it, there are no nights off in the Big East, you've got to play hard every game."

"It's more of a competitive league where everybody is stronger," Karron added. "It's both stronger and a quicker pace. Most of the teams in the Big East get ranked in the top 25, so that speaks for itself."

The season where Clarke had to sit out his transfer year under NCAA rules was the most difficult for Clarke. "That was the toughest thing I think I ever did," Clark recalled. "I never sat out not playing basketball for a whole year before. Because of the decisions I made for myself, I had to go through it."

Karron used that season to improve himself physically and mentally. "I think it helped me work on my body as far as getting stronger and working on my game," he said. "My shooting, my dribbling, everything, as well as knowing to take my spots on the floor. Whether I should score here, play defense there, what I should do in different situations. That helped me out a lot."

He also worked on one of his greatest attributes – his vertical leap. "I think I have around a 39 or 40 inch vertical," Clarke revealed. "I work on the Vertimax (machine) in the weight room. Tim Lang, our strength coach, straps this thing on to your waist and you've got to keep jumping straight up for resistance. It hurts your legs, but improves your vertical a lot."

In three seasons Clarke has played under three coaches - Clark, Leitao and now Wainwright. One might think that the lack of coaching stability might have been difficult for Clarke. "It wasn't a bad thing, I'd say it was a good thing," Karron expressed. "They are all different coaches. They are all good coaches. They all had different styles. I'd say that it's a blessing for me, I've learned three different coaching styles."

Perry Clark, now a television analyst, has seen quite a bit of change in his former pupil. "I think that Jerry has done a great job with him," Clark said. "He's expanded his game. He's shooting the jump shot a lot better than he was before. Physically he's gotten stronger. I always felt that Karron was an energy guy. I thought he was capable of working extremely hard. I know that type was the type of kid that Coach Wainwright looks for in his program."

For Karron, the highlight of his season came in a 108-69 rout of the Syracuse Orange at Allstate Arena in front of a national TV audience in March. Clarke poured in a career high 27 points on five of five shooting from three point range on that night.

"I hope I brought a lot of energy to this team, a lot of excitement, defense and just being a team player," Clarke expressed.

Karron has done just that. His head coach is quite pleased with what he brought to the Demons in his sophomore year. "He has a chance when all is said and done, if the good lord keeps him healthy, to go down as one of the great DePaul warriors," said Wainwright. "He plays both ends with a lot of energy. He has incredible athleticism. He's able to get off two feet quickly. He's got really good hands. He's a converted power forward, so he's learning to play on the perimeter. I feel really good about his shooting. I think he really takes good shots. He never forces his offense. His whole game is movement. He's very hard to block out when he's moving."

"He's been our heart and soul," related Wainwright. "I think without any question, he's our most consistent player."

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