03-22 laquesha clark

Clarksville senior guard LaQuesha Clark did a masterful job orchestrating the Clarksville Lady Tigers’ offense this year, averaging 14.9 points per game to go along with 4.1 assists per game, both team highs. Because of her ability to lead the Clarksville offense, she has been selected as the 2020 Red River Valley All-Area Offensive Player of the Year.

When asked to talk about life outside of the game of basketball, Clarksville Lady Tigers senior guard LaQuesha Clark stopped for a second, scratched her head while she thought, and responded “Basketball is my whole life.”

Her dedication for the sport is nearly unmatched, and the long hours she spends in the gym working on her game paid off this year, as Clark was able to step up her game and lead Clarksville to an undefeated record in district play and a playoff run that took the team to the third round.

Clark got into the sport at a young age, thanks to the Little Dribblers program, and she said she fell in love with the game almost immediately.

“I just decided to try it, and I think I was hooked after the first game,” she said. “Since then, I’ve always been about basketball.”

“She brings a drive to the game that a lot of coaches look for, but not a lot of players have it the way she has it,” head coach LaTisha Hearne said. “It’s really hard to find that in a player.”

Always looking to play basketball, Clark recently began taking part in pickup games against adults.

“There’s a group of grown men who play games every Sunday at the Title I gym, and I’ve been going and getting in the game with them,” she said. “It’s rough because they don’t take it easy on me, but it’s a lot of fun and I feel like it’s helped me as a player, too.”

The scant times Clark doesn’t have a basketball in her hand, she said, she spends watching film, analyzing her play and figuring out ways she can improve.

“When I’m not practicing, I watch a lot of old film,” she said. “I’m always looking for areas where maybe I messed up or could have done something better, and now that I’m a senior and don’t have another year of high school, I’m looking for what I need to do to play at the next level.

“I look for places I could have taken someone with a drive, or ways to cut down on turnovers, ways the defense reacts to me and things like that.”

On the court, Clark is a slasher, using excellent handles and speed to beat defenders and drive to the paint.

“She excels off the dribble and in transition,” Hearne said. “She will break you down and take you right, but she also worked on using her left hand this season, which just opened the door even more for her, since now she could right or left off the drive, and that just makes it that much harder for defenses. But predominantly, she’s looking to take it to the rim where she usually makes it. And if she doesn’t make it, she’s usually drawing a foul and she’ll make her free throws.”

Always working to expand her game, Clark also put in a lot of time to develop her jump shot this season, which paid off in dividends.

“I put a lot of work into my shot, and now I’m able to pull up for three reliably,” Clark said. “I used to just take it to the rim all the time but now I’m able to stop and pop.”

Clark also makes her presence felt on the defensive end, and is adept at turning good defense into easy offense. She averaged 3.3 steals per game for the Lady Tigers during her senior campaign, and frequently turned those swipes into transition points.

Clark credits Hearne as being instrumental in her improvement this season.

“In years past, the coaching mindset was like, ‘You’ve got it; OK, good,’ but this year the coaching mindset was more like, ‘You’ve got it; OK, now let’s add more,’” Clark said.

Looking back on this season, Clark pointed to the team’s final game of the season, a loss to Hawkins in the regional quarterfinals, as one of her best individual performances of the season. In the game, Clark scored 22 points and shot a high percentage from the floor, on just under 50% shooting.

“I had to play the game out with four fouls, and I played my heart out in the fourth quarter,” she said.

Hearne points to Clark’s performance at Rivercrest as one of the strongest games she had.

“Most people would say, ‘Oh the game she dropped 35 (is her strongest),’ but I think the one at Rivercrest best embodies who she is,” Hearne said. “We were down for three quarters, and in the fourth quarter she just put the team on her back and absolutely turned it around

Looking to the future, Clark said she hopes to play basketball collegiately somewhere, though she isn’t sure where yet.

“I’m not really sure where I want to go, but I definitely know I still want basketball to be a part of my life,” she said. “I might try out for some teams and see what comes, but I don’t know yet.”

“She’s a great player, and it’s going to be hard to replace what she did,” Hearne said. “I definitely think we’re capable of coming back strong next year, depending on how hard we all work this summer, but she’s a special type of player, and it was a joy to coach her.”

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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