Earl Clark: The Lakers’ Diamond in the Rough

earl clark“Some days it’s like man, am I ever going to get a shot?”

Earl Clark is always thinking about the next step. That shot came on January 6th against the Denver Nuggets. Lakers forward Pau Gasol went down with what later turned out to be a concussion and Nuggets’ head coach George Karl picked none other than Earl Clark off the bench to shoot Gasol’s free throws. Much to Karl’s chagrin, Clark drained both. The following game at Houston, Clark recorded nine rebounds, three assists and five points.

Oh, so he’s a defensive player? Not so fast.

The next game, against the San Antonio Spurs, Clark put up 13 rebounds and 22 points. He’s also got a 75 percent free throw percentage. Lesson of the day: Earl does it all. Safe to say Los Angeles has uncovered a diamond in the rough.

Pretty good for someone who isn’t even the first person that pops up when you search ‘Earl Clark’ on ESPN.com.

But why would he be? After a pretty stellar college career at Louisville, Clark appeared to be a bust; averaging just 2.7 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 7.6 minutes in 45 games with the Phoenix Suns, who drafted him 14th overall in 2009.

Though he says he hates the ‘Earl-sanity thing’, Clark’s journey was similar in nature to the original ‘sanity’, Jeremy Lin. After failing to perform with the Suns he was sent to the Iowa Energy of the D-League halfway through the season in March of 2010. But, Earl Clark is always thinking about the next step.

A stop in Orlando, an almost gig with the Zhejiang Lions in China and he landed with the Lakers in the four-team madness of a trade that brought not only Dwight Howard to LA, but Chris Duhon as well. A trade that turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.

So we know how Earl Clark got here, but where did he come from?

The now 25-year old is from Plainfield, NJ, just outside Newark. At Rahway High School he was a four-year starter and a McDonald’s All-American his senior season in 2006. He was ranked as the number one recruit out of New Jersey and the New York City Metropolitan Area. He chose to attend Louisville, saying he felt they were the right school that could get him to the next level. Earl Clark is always thinking about the next step.

In college, Clark scored 1,104 points and grabbed 728 rebounds in three seasons with the Cardinals (2006-09). He led the way for Louisville his junior season as they nabbed the Big East Title, as well as Louisville’s first ever #1 ranking. In 2009 he decided to forgo his senior season and entered the NBA draft. Earl Clark is always thinking about the next step.NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets

Clark’s nickname among Lakers players is ‘Eazy’. In high school/college it was ‘E5’. He likens himself with the rapper/actor Snoop Dogg. According to the Louisville website, that’s who he would pick to play him in a movie about his life. Seriously. Basketball-wise he grew up idolizing Allen Iverson, but as far as Clark’s personal work ethic, he places a little more emphasis on ‘practice.’

“Practice is my game,” Clark explained at practice this week.“I don’t really let the guys take a day off.”

He treats practices like his games because up until January 6th, practices were his games. But Earl Clark is always thinking about the next step.

“[Kobe] would always tell me be ready. You are going to get your chance.”

Now that his chance has finally come what will Earl’s next step be? With Jordan Hill out the rest of the season, Clark can provide a go-to man off the bench. And with a team struggling to find their defensive identity, the energy and intensity Clark brings could be just the thing they need. But just like Jeremy Lin, come next season Clark could be tough to hold on to. After all, Earl Clark is always thinking about the next step.

 

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