Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Time to Shine for E5

It's time for E5 to show up like he did down the stretch last year and it needs to happen now. Hopefully that's not too much to ask from a person who seems to have one eye on the green and one on the red right now. I always revert back to what he told me at Media Day - he gets up for big games and the tourney is a one-and-done scenario, so you have to play your hardest. I'm not downplaying his near triple-double against DePaul, I just know (as I'm sure he does) that he could have had monster game if he stayed inside. He is a freak with his back to the basket, yet he loves gunning threes at a 27% clip. His bread is buttered in the paint.

In March last year, Clark would grab every rebound, dunk at any chance, and rarely shoot from beyond 15-feet. In the second round he absolutely dominated Oklahoma's Blake Griffin in the paint and left the current projected #1 overall pick and Wooden Award winner looking like a broken player. Clark looked "mean" and was tossing people around like a bouncer at a bar fight. Did Griffin decide to step out and become a three-point shooter because of this whoopin'? No. He decided to work on his post moves and has become a great player. Did Clark become a lottery projection off his three-point shot? No. But, for some reason that is what Clark decided to work on. Pitino deserves some of the blame because of his tolerance to the constant negligence to gameplan and lack of plays designed to get Clark the ball in that zone, but it's mostly on Earl to realize he is a 6'10 beast who belongs inside.

Clark needs to realize that he is being left open behind the arc because he shoots such a sub-par percentage. There are 1000's of players that can guard his three-point shot, but only a handful that could even dream of containing him from the elbow in. It was about this time last year that you knew Earl was on a mission. He showed flashes that it was coming back against DePaul, but then he reverted back to his old ways. If Clark we're to understand what Pitino and every fan has been trying to tell him, there is no telling what could happen. It would free up Samardo from double-teams, get shooters wide open looks and give the Cards their best option when in desperate need of a bucket.

As I've said before, I am a huge Earl Clark fan and, at highest intensity, he is one of the all-time great talents to wear a Louisville uniform. The frustration kicks in when he doesn't stick with what got him in the position he's in right now. He went from a McDonald's All-American point guard to an All-Big East power forward in only two short years. Now he looks like he's trying to become an NBA small forward. I'm sure Clark has a lot of passion for the team and school. He also chose UofL because it would help propel him into the pros. Clark's legacy in college will benefit him more than any pre-draft camp or workout. If he plays like he did in March last year and shows a year's worth of maturity, the Cards could be special.

T-Will is the senior leader and playmaker and Samardo is the freshman phenom. That being said, this team goes as Earl Clark goes. It has been evident in every loss - T-Will had 26 against UCONN and we lost by 16 because of Clark - and win - Clark phenomenal performance against Ole Miss - this season. A strong finish for the junior from Rahway, NJ could give his coach another Final 4, the Cardinal faithful joy, and his pockets crazy amounts of cash. The "mean" Earl must come out in order for that to happen.

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