Before we cue the music and start this dance...let me hit you with some numbers in order to gain your full attention to Mr. Brandon Clarke.
* TOP 10 IN NCAA IN:
3rd in blocks per game 3.2 (Leader is at 3.4)
2nd in PER (37.2) behind Zion Williamson (40.8)
#1 in Offensive Rating (137.9)
#1 in Defensive Rating (84.0)
Win Shares per 40 minutes (Clarke #1 .337, Zion #2 .335)
Box Score +/- (#1 Zion at 20.0, #2 Clarke at 18.9, #3 is at 15.1)
EFG% (Zion #1 at 70.8, Clarke #2 at 69.3)
#1 in FG% (68.7) (Zion #2 at 68.0)
Now since everyone is high on the Zion hype meter this year, I felt it was my obligation to tell you about a prospect that deserves way more attention than he's getting. Chances are high that you have heard all about the insane statistics that Zion Williamson is putting up for Duke this year. But what if I told you a Junior at Gonzaga is putting up numbers that are just as impressive as Zion...
Insert Brandon Clarke. The Junior forward is going to be one of the typical draft prospects that don't get enough attention. Why is that? Why does this happen every year to players who aren't the talented one and done type? Well, Clarke has all of the tools you could look for in a young big man. He's personally one of the favorites here at Backcourt Violation, and TRUST ME...we are going to have plenty to talk about.
A little background first on the Gonzaga Forward. Brandon Clarke started out his collegiate career at San Jose State University before deciding to transfer to Gonzaga after his Sophomore year. Now before you get turned away from the "Junior tag" let me assure you that Clarke recently just turned 22 this year. So if you are only obsessed with 18 and 19-year-old prospects...please remove yourself from this article.
Still with us? Good because Clarke is going to be a steal for his next potential team. If you take a look below you will notice the production from Clarke has steadily improved each year. Clarke plays the role of an athletic slightly undersized 4, that has the ability to step out and hit the outside shot. He's a high IQ defender with a tremendous amount of upside on the offensive side of the ball.
Do you know those players that somehow just end up falling into the laps of the perfect franchise on draft night? Then we look back 4 years down the road and say "How did he last until 15?" Well, Brandon Clarke could be one of these stories. So why are scouts overlooking Clarke? Well, let's start with his age. Clarke isn't going to be the "sexiest' prospect because he's a 22-year-old Junior, who has thrived off of playing at a program that typically is a bulldog in their conference. Some might argue that Clarke's impressive numbers this year are due to playing alongside a dominating roster. After all, Gonzaga looks to have 3-4 players in their starting lineup who are expected to be drafted in June.
It's okay I get it. Keep overlooking Mr. Brandon Clarke, that's completely fine. This thing happens every year and then a player like this falls to the Spurs and they laugh for a week straight while smoking Cuban cigars in their War Room.
I get it, really I do. Clarke is 6'8" and he plays the 4 so he most likely wouldn't thrive at the next level.
ARE WE FORGETTING THAT CLARKE WOULD BE THE PERFECT SMALL BALL 5?
Clarke is an absolute monster on the defensive side of the ball, and has the explosive athleticism to be a perfect small ball 5, or become a weapon at the 4. If he can develop some versatility in his offensive game, which looks to be happening, he's going to be a factor in the NBA for years to come.
Enough talk. More Film.
FOOTWORK AND FINISH
Clarke gets the ball here after a little down pick motion that allows an opportunity for Brandon to go one on one on the perimeter. With a quick burst, Clarke is able to drive the lane before a nice gather and an impressive finish on the other side of the rim. Notice the adjustment by Clarke to go to the reverse after he gets the Tennessee big up in the air.
POST UP GAME
Really nice display of patience and footwork here by Brandon. There's a serious amount of IQ to Clarke's game overall. He's not going to be a guy that takes 20 shots per game, but he knows when to pick his spots, and when it's the right time to get his shot. Here's a face-up opportunity on the wing but it quickly becomes an improved efficient shot with two dribbles and a nice fade away.
You are not welcomed here.
This was a play that has had people buzzing about Clarke throughout the year. Tennesee tries to push the ball up the floor quickly after a made Free Throw, but not on Brandon's watch. Notice the explosiveness by Clarke. This is a clip that scouts will show their Front Office if anyone is doubting his size at 6'8.
HUSTLE PLAYS/ FOOTWORK
Clarke does a lot of dirty work, something that is rare at the next level. You need guys that are willing to give maximum effort and make hustle plays like this on a nightly basis. Great recognition on the fly to use a spin move after possessing the offensive board. Then we get another example of the impressive explosiveness.
LOW POST FOOTWORK
Looks here as if BYU is in a bit of a matchup zone. Notice how Clarke constantly is trying to read the defense to pick his spot. He sees the BYU big predicting Clarke is going to come back towards the middle so he quickly cuts around to create positioning for an entry pass. Once he gets the pass Clarke takes a second to survey the defense, and read his man, before he goes to work. It looks so simple, but it's an impressive display of footwork and recognition by Clarke. With one dribble and a quick spin, he's able to get right to the rim for an easy two.
RUNNING THE FLOOR
Great play here by Brandon Clarke. Rui Hachimura is going to come down with the defensive board here for Gonzaga, and look at where Clarke starts on the screen. Clarke does a great job of running his lane but also keeping his head up and calling for the ball. Then we get a great display of his hands and athleticism as he goes up for the oop. I like how Clarke got his head around early to the guard in anticipation of this pass.
STRETCHING THE DEFENSE
One of the interesting developments of Clarke's offensive game is his outside shooting. If you remember above, you might have noticed that Clarke's 3P percentage has increased each year. For a player with his defensive ability, if he can get into the 40% range, he's going to be an impactful player in the NBA. Nothing too fancy here, but you can see he's got a nice simple form. I like in this clip that Clarke was constantly moving and trying to create spacing offensively.
LOW POST FOOTWORK II
Another good look at a post-up situation for Clarke. Great job of selling the first dribble to the left before coming back to the right hand for the finish. Great display of quickness as well. His footwork is impressive.
FREE THROW FORM
One of the negatives we could point out from a statistical standpoint is Clarke's free throw %. So I wanted to make sure to look into it. Here's a good clip showing Brandon's touch from the line. If you look at his numbers you'll notice a slight increase during his first two years at San Jose State, followed by a sizeable jump this year at Gonzaga. Obviously, Clarke has been putting in the time.
POWER OFF THE DRIBBLE
A good showing here of Clarke attacking off of the dribble and using his lower body strength to get where he wants. Clarke overpowers his defender then does a great job of going into the defender's body in order to finish and draw the foul. Again, it doesn't look like much, but Clarke does a great job of putting his man in a position where he couldn't defend this shot.
WORKING FOR POSITIONING
Just a perfect example of the type of player that Clarke is. He's constantly moving on offense to keep his defender working. Something you don't see with a lot of young bigs coming up in the College Basketball ranks. This is why I tend to lean towards the "vet" bigs that play with grit and hustle. Once Clarke gains position and gets the entry pass, it's a simple jump hook for two.
Just a teaser of how good Clarke is as a defender here. Notice again, CONSTANTLY MOVING. He's reading the entire offense. Clarke does a good job of helping on the initial drive then he explodes out to contest the three ball. Most big man would get blown by here, but Clarke does a great job of chopping his feet and then quickly sliding with the ball handler. The driver thinks he has Clarke but Brandon proves that was a poor decision when he explodes and meets him up top.
Just another prospect that I will shake my head at and continue to wonder why people aren't higher on him. As of now, I am expecting Clarke to end up going in the 20-30 range of the first round come June. But I will constantly ask myself why he isn't drafted higher. This could be another perfect example of teams reaching for potential rather than production. If you draft a player like Clarke, you know what you are getting from day one. You're getting a high IQ/ motor player that can be a defensive anchor. Some NBA Front Office is going to fall in love, who is it going to be?