Angela Clark loves to smile. She says she doesn’t when she’s on the court, but her teammates tease her about it.
“People always say ‘Why are you so happy?’ or ‘What is so funny out there?'” Clark said. “But I really don’t understand, because I will be mad and I don’t feel myself smiling.”
Smiling or not, Clark’s humorous personality is one of the many things she brings to her play on the court, which has made her one of the key cogs in the success of the St. John’s women’s basketball program over the last two years.
The 2005-2006 campaign is expected to be an even bigger one for the junior forward.
“I think this team is more athletic this year and we’re much quicker than last season,” said the 6-foot-1 forward from Copiague, NY. “Even if they double me, we don’t have to worry because somebody will be there to step up. Pretty much, I hope to bring my numbers up from last year and hopefully get my teammates more involved.”
Clark has already established herself around the Big East as one of the dynamic impact players on coach Kim Barnes Arico’s team.
“As Angela goes, we go and that has been the way we have been for the last two years,” said Barnes Arico. “She’s coming into her third year as a starter and the program has improved a lot because of her. Last year got really tough on her because people kept trying to take away her game because they knew if they stop her they may have success against us.”
With that in mind, Barnes Arico made it clear that the Red Storm will only go as far as Clark can lead them this season.
“She has to develop more as a player and I think if she does that we will go to the NCAA tournament,” Barnes Arico said. “But if she doesn’t, I don’t see our program taking that next step forward.”
Last season, Clark had her strongest campaign. She averaged 11.8 points per game and 8.3 rebounds, good for third in the Big East.
She started 29 of the 31 games she played in and was named to the Preseason All-Big East Second team and the All-Met Selection second team by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association.
As a freshman, she started all 28 games for the Red Storm, averaging 12.1 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Those numbers ranked tops among Big East freshmen, and were part of the reason Clark was named to the 2004 Big East all-freshman Team. She was also rookie of the week four times.
Numbers aside, Clark’s post up game has been her calling card.
That, however, all too often gets her double teamed by opponents. In an effort to fix that, she spent the off-season adding a new weapon to her arsenal.
“I’ve worked on my jump shot,” said Clark. “Pretty much I have just been taking more shots because a lot of teams expect me not to take the shot, but to make the drive down low. So this year I wanted to make sure I worked on my outside shot.”
In addition to working on her jumper, Clark says she’s become conscious of another alteration she needed: leadership.
“(Coach) approached me plenty of times and I’ve been here pretty much the same amount of time she’s been here,” Clark said. “She looks at me to be a leader and personally I look at it as being a leader takes a lot of responsibility. So I am so-so with that right now.”
Why just so-so?
“I have a lot of things that I need to personally address before I step up to be a leader,” Clark said. “I know sometimes I get down on myself and as a leader I know you can’t because if you get down, you get the team down. So I know I’ll be a leader when I address that.”
Although Clark sees her leadership as a work in progress, her coach sees the leadership she can offer without making a peep.
“She doesn’t need to be a leader in terms of being vocal all the time,” said Barnes Arico. “If she does it in terms of her work ethic, her commitment and passion to the game, and shows it when she steps on the court every day, that in itself will show leadership to the program.”
Clark knows what lies ahead for St. John’s, who after a 20-win season and a WNIT appearance expects to achieve more this year.
“That’s my biggest goal,” Clark said. “We plan on making it to the NCAA Tournament.”