NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Former Belmont University men's basketball All-American Ian Clark ('13) will play in the 2016 NBA Finals as a member of the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
The Memphis, Tennessee native led Belmont to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and four consecutive regular season conference championships, standing as Belmont's NCAA Division I era career leader in points (1,920) and made three-point field goals (340).
Though he went undrafted in 2013, after strong performances in the Portsmouth Invitational and Orlando NBA Summer League for the Miami Heat, Clark latched on with the Golden State Warriors for 2013 Vegas NBA Summer League.
Clark would score a then-record 33 points in the championship game, leading Golden State past Phoenix en route to Championship Game Most Valuable Player honors.
Testament to Clark's impact upon the Warriors during that stint, former Golden State head coach and current ESPN basketball analyst Mark Jackson praised Clark for playing a part in changing the Warriors' culture.
Though Clark would ultimately agree to a two-year deal with the Utah Jazz, his impression upon the Golden State organization was undeniable.
After closing last season with the Denver Nuggets – and shining with the team from the Mile High City in summer league – Clark and Golden State got together.
But emblematic of his career journey, nothing would be handed to Clark; he would have to earn a regular season roster spot.
And that meant beating out a collection of accomplished perimeter players from major conference programs, including former NCAA champion and No. 3 overall pick Ben Gordon (Connecticut), former Big 12 All-Defensive team selection Chris Babb (Iowa State), former McDonald's All-American and No. 12 overall pick Xavier Henry (Kansas), 2015 All-American Juwan Staten (West Virginia), and former NBA Developmental League three-point champion Jarell Eddie (Virginia Tech).
Calling upon lessons learned playing for Belmont head coach Rick Byrd, Clark's patience paid off.
Moreover, his attention to detail and positive outlook impressed Warrior teammates, most notably reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry.
"He's played well," Curry told media members during training camp. "He's not just a shooter. He's showing he can put the ball on the floor and make plays inside and out. He understands how we play, and he's fit right in. Ian has definitely shown confidence in his ability and he's making the most of his opportunity right now."
Clark averaged 3.6 points per game in 66 appearances during the Warriors' historic 73-win regular season.
He scored in double figures in four straight games in December and ranked fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting for a two-month period from late November to late January, behind only J.J. Redick, Devin Harris, Kawhi Leonard, and Omri Casspi.
In fact, Clark's player efficiency rating (PER) through the first two round of the NBA playoffs (14.50) ranked 11th among all participating shooting guards, ahead of decorated players such as C.J. McCollum (Portland), Nicolas Batum (Charlotte), and DeMar DeRozan (Toronto).
Earlier in the playoffs, with Curry out due to injury, Clark saw an increased role and took full advantage.
In Game 3 of the Warriors' opening round series versus Houston, Clark scored nine points in the final 5:33 of regulation, including a teardrop with 1:24 remaining that gave the Warriors a 94-93 lead.
Then trailing by one point in the final seconds, Clark again delivered, scoring a transition layin with 10 seconds left to give Golden State a one-point lead.
Ian Clark Fast Facts
- Height: 6-3
- Weight: 175
- Career-high: 21 points (at Dallas, 12/30/15)
- Career playoff high: 11 points (at Houston, 4/21/16)
- First NBA start: (at Boston, 12/11/15)
- 2013 Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention
- 2013 Naismith and Lou Henson National Player of the Year candidate
- 2013 National 3-Point Championship 2nd runner-up
- Four-time all-conference & Two-time conference defensive player of the year
- Belmont's NCAA Division I era career leader in points (1,920) and 3-point field goals made (340)
- Clark ranks third among all players in the 2016 NBA Finals in collegiate career points (Stephen Curry, Davidson 2,635; Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary's (CA) 1933; Ian Clark, Belmont 1920)
- Clark becomes first former Ohio Valley Conference player to reach the NBA Finals since Anthony Mason (Tennessee State), who played in the 1993-94 NBA Finals as part of the New York Knicks.
- One of five former Belmont men's basketball players currently playing professionally (Alex Renfroe, Germany; Kerron Johnson, Germany; J.J. Mann, Germany; Trevor Noack, Denmark)