On paper it might not appear that Ian Clark received the freshman treatment last year.
The Belmont guard led the Bruins in scoring and ranked eighth in the Atlantic Sun Conference with nearly 15 points a game. His 74 made 3-pointers was fifth in the country among freshmen. His 40.2 percent shooting percentage ranked third among league leaders. And his 33 steals led the team.
All of that helped him earn the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year award.
Though it looked like transitioning from the high school level was easy for Clark, he insists he was literally welcomed with open arms to college basketball.
“A lot of teams bodied me up last year,” Clark, a native of Memphis who also received scholarship offers from Lipscomb and Middle Tennessee State, said. “They were very physical, scrappy, and that kind of took its toll on me throughout the season.”
After absorbing the blows of his first collegiate season, Clark is ready to shake off a possible sophomore slump and lead Belmont to another conference championship.
Strength was an area both Clark and coach Rick Byrd believed needed to be addressed in the offseason. Clark said he put on some muscle but admitted, “It hasn’t been a drastic change, but I think it is enough for me to start and build on this year.”
His freshman year will be a tough act to follow, especially now that the rest of the league understands his ability. Twice last season Clark dropped a career-high 31 points, including nine 3-pointers in a win against North Florida.
“I thought he was a special player for us to get, a player that was a little better than what our level would normally get,” Byrd said. “… He just has a natural feel. All the tools. Stuff you don’t coach.”
Now the question is, can he top his freshman season?
“I’ll try,” Clark said, laughing.