- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2009

Georgetown’s Jason Clark seems primed for a sophomore surge.

The 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Woodbridge, Va., is slated to make his first start for the Hoyas when No. 20 Georgetown opens its season Friday night at Tulane. But don’t expect to see anything resembling the wide-eyed player whose defining freshman trait was a penchant for tossing outrageously errant passes.

“There is absolutely no question that Jason made the biggest leap of anyone during the offseason,” coach John Thompson III said. “You always hear coaches repeating the fact that the performance jump between a player’s freshman and sophomore seasons is almost always the biggest. In Jason’s case, that jump is going to be huge.”

A consensus top-100 recruit out of Bishop O’Connell High School, Clark played significant minutes as a reserve last season during his debut on the Hilltop. During Georgetown’s second-half slide toward the NIT, Clark’s time increased as he subbed for slumping senior Jessie Sapp.

Clark’s talent was evident in his quickness off the ball, ability to elevate and collect rebounds or passes in traffic. Equally evident was a handle too loose for Big East backcourt standards and an occasionally panicky reaction to fullcourt pressure.

Like most other freshmen, Clark simply wasn’t ready for the ballhandling stress of life in the Big East. The result was a solid debut season (5.6 points in 18.3 minutes) somewhat marred by 46 turnovers compared to just 25 assists.

Thompson said he thinks Clark’s unusually long arms make ballhandling more challenging for him.

“[Trainer] Lorry Michel has kept in-depth records on all the measurables of every guy who has played here going all the way back to [1981], and she has told me that Jason has the longest arms relative to height of any player who has ever played at Georgetown,” Thompson said. “So even though he’s 6-2 or whatever, he’s got the wingspan of a kid who is like 6-7. Those arms of his are a great asset when it comes to defending and rebounding, but when he’s dribbling, that ball is an awful long way from his body.”

Whatever the cause, Clark attacked his ballhandling problem in the offseason, practically moving into McDonough Gymnasium this summer.

“I knew I had to tighten up my handle and improve my shot, so I went to work,” said Clark, who lived at Georgetown this summer even though his home is less than 30 minutes from campus. “I was here all summer, working with the guys, working with the coaches and working by myself. A couple of guys went home for a couple of weeks, but I stayed here because I knew I still had to get better.”

Said Thompson: “I’d be in my office at all hours of the day and night, and I’d hear the ball bouncing. I’d look out on the floor, and there would be Jason, and often [junior point guard Chris Wright] would be with him.”

The results of that work have been dramatic. Clark looked like a different player in Kenner League action this summer. His teammates have definitely noticed. Not only did they unanimously select him as the squad’s most improved player, but some also suggested Clark now might be the team’s most consistent shooter.

He boasts the highest 3-point shooting average among returning players (.340), though he attempted only 50 shots from behind the arc. With Sapp graduated and Clark joining Wright and junior swingman Austin Freeman as the primary perimeter threats, Clark’s attempts from long range could double this season.

“The combination of him working extremely hard on his game and the clouds opening for him in terms of understanding our system has just led to a remarkable step forward for him as a player,” Thompson said. “He’ll be a starter without question, but more than that he’s worked himself into a position to be a major piece of the puzzle for us this season.

“We always talk about figuring out the best way to skin the cat. Well, I know Jason Clark is going to be part of that solution.”

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