Photo courtesy of St. John’s University Athletics.
By David Cordova
The season has started at St. John’s and so far, the Red Storm are off to a fast 2-0 start on the non-conference schedule. This year is the year that many say they will make a return to the NCAA Tournament, their first since 2015. They may have a good backcourt, but their front court is also something worth paying attention to as well.
One of the low-post anchors that hold the Red Storm down in the paint is none other than Marvin Clark II. He is a player that has plenty of toughness and plays with fearlessness. The 6-foot-6 senior forward has been a dominant force for St. John’s after becoming eligible, following his transfer from Michigan State just a couple of years ago.
Although he is smaller than most power forwards or true centers, he still manages to hold his own on the court. “I’m just going in with the mindset that I’m a basketball player, just be versatile. I still have that same mindset. Whatever coach asks of me, whatever he needs me to do, I’m going to go out there and play whatever position he needs me to,” said Clark. “So that’s just my mindset. At the end of the day the game is changing and it’s really a positionless game. I’ve worked all summer and really my whole life towards being a complete basketball player. Whatever role coach needs me to play, whether it’s the five [position], it is what it is, gotta get the job done.”
On the subject of going up against taller players, he also added: “I’ve been doing it my whole life, honestly. I’ve been undersized at my position my whole life. It’s definitely different, but where I lack certain things, I have certain strengths and I’m completely confident in those strengths. I’m a bigger guy as far as strength goes so I can hold my own. But I think the fact that I can space the floor out with my shot, you know, being able to put the ball on the floor, being able to pass, make certain plays, make certain reads. I think that’s really why stretching the floor is definitely a weapon that you can use against bigger guys.”
When asked what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “I just want to be recognized, I want to be known as a good player. So, you know, self-motivation is what motivates me to be successful in basketball, and also my family. I have five, six people that are depending on me to be successful, so that alone is the reason I put in the amount of time I do and why I take this game so seriously.”
If you see Clark on the court, you’d never know that he didn’t start off traditionally as a basketball player like many others. “I’m a late bloomer, man, I ain’t start playing, I really didn’t touch basketball until eighth grade. I didn’t start playing high-level basketball until my sophomore year in high school. I grew up playing football, [first],” he said.
Clark hails from the blue-collar, hard-working city of Kansas City, Missouri. The state of Missouri has always had plenty of talent. A couple of players from the state, such as Jayson Tatum, Michael Porter, Jr. and Brad Beal, are all now in the NBA.
When asked what the basketball scene is like in the Midwest and in Kansas City, Clark replied, “It’s great. If you can tell from Bryan [Trimble, Jr.], definitely a lot of shooters in the Midwest. A lot of guys that can really shoot the ball. We don’t necessarily have like, a lot of bigs, we have a lot of guys that are big and versatile, we have a lot of tweeners. But basketball is great in the Midwest, it’s growing rapidly, too.”
In his high school days, he played for MoKan Elite, a Nike-sponsored program that has players from Missouri and Kansas. When asked about his time with MoKan, Clark replied, “Beautiful experience. Without that program, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today, I wouldn’t be who I am today. You know, they took me in, essentially, off the street – a raw kid with really, no basketball experience, no basketball knowledge – and really turned me into a player. Everything that I have today, I have to acknowledge them for that.”
Clark played high school ball at Sunrise Christian Academy, a big-time prep powerhouse in Bel Air, Kansas. As a junior, he averaged 12 points and 3.3 rebounds and led them to a 29-1 record. As a senior, he doubled his average to 20 points and nine rebounds per game.
When asked about his experience at Sunrise Christian, he replied, “A little more of the same [as with MoKan Elite]. Great program, we were a powerhouse, we contended for a national championship [during] the years I was there, and even so forth, they’re still putting out great talent. But definitely an experience that I needed. It helped me get ready for college and I’m having success at this level now.”
After high school finished, Clark would go on to Michigan State, which was a powerhouse in the Big Ten. In his two years there, the Spartans went to the NCAA Tournament both times. In Clark’s freshman year, they went all the way to the NCAA Final Four. In his sophomore year, they only made it as far as the first round. However, during those times, he would receive minimal playing time. As a freshman, he averaged 4.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game and then as a sophomore, he averaged 3.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
When asked about his time at Michigan State, Clark mentioned, “It was a great experience, you know, being a kid, stepping on to your first college campus. I definitely experienced a bunch of new things, played at a very high level, for a program that’s almost a blue-blood, I would say. Learned a lot of great things from Tom Izzo, learned a lot of things from my teammates and former players of that university, but it was definitely an experience that I needed. It’s definitely helped me take this situation into St. John’s and trying to turn it into something great.”
On playing for the legendary Tom Izzo, who coached the Spartans to a national championship in 2000, Clark said, “Definitely, he’s legendary, I’ll say that. He taught me a lot of things, not just on the court, but off the court, just about being a blue-collar guy coming to work every day and being somebody that someone wants in the work place.”
As a result of the minimal playing time, Clark decided to head to the East Coast and play for St. John’s. On his decision to play for the Big East program in Jamaica, Queens, he replied, “I would say, [it was] more of a personal interest, just me wanting more of a higher success and having a chance to play professional basketball. I knew my role had to increase and I knew the chances of my role increasing would be high here and the rest speaks for itself.”
When asked about what he likes about being in New York and playing in Madison Square Garden, he added: “It’s crazy, nothing like it. [It] feels like you’re on a stage and everybody is arms-length away from you. It’s a different experience, an experience I can’t really explain, but definitely can’t compare it to anything else.”
Many kids when they’re younger always dream of playing in the Garden, Clark felt different. When asked if that was his dream, he answered, “No. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri. Now, I’m in New York.”
Last season, in his increased role in the paint at St. John’s, he averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. However, the Red Storm finished 16-17 on the season. When asked about how he felt about last season, he said, “I did alright, I feel like it was definitely my most productive season in my college career, but it’s a new year, so I gotta translate the work I put in this summer into the season.”
This season, he plans to, as he is averaging 10 points and 4.5 rebounds per game through the first two games of this season, going into Friday’s road game against Rutgers, which is part of the Gavitt Games, a showdown between teams in the Big East and the Big Ten.
When asked about what he will bring to the Red Storm as a senior, he replied, “I’ll bring 110% every day, every time I step on the court.” And as far as plans for the season, he added: “Win. Nothing else but win.”
Life hasn’t been a crystal stair for Marvin Clark II. He’s fought through hurdles that many others would find impossible and still managed to persevere when others would have just given up. This coming May, he will complete his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management and then, who knows what the world will have in store for the kid from Kansas City. But for now, his main goal is to ensure that the Red Storm does nothing but win.
“It’s honestly crazy to think about. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way but being here now, it’s definitely a blessing,” he said. “It’s obviously something to be proud about but I won’t be too proud until I leave the program where our guys know it can be, and that’s at the top of the BIG EAST. We’re poised to do something special this season and we’re excited to get the season started.”
Highlights of Marvin Clark II:
Courtesy of Frankie Vision.
Courtesy of St. John’s Red Storm.