Jason Clark (190-G-90, college: Georgetown) is a 31 year old 190cm guard from Arlington, Virginia playing his 10th professional season and first with Tsmoki-Minsk (VTB League). He played at Georgetown (NCAA) from 2008-2012 playing a total of 130 NCAA Games. He began his professional career in 2012 and played 4 seasons in Belgium as well as in Turkey, Germany and Italy. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Fiba Europe Cup game in Crailsheim.
Thanks Jason for talking to germanhoops.com. What does it feel like being in
Germany again. What do you miss most from the time you were there?
It feels great. We flew into Frankfurt and it was great seeing the airport again. Germany was always one of my favorite places to play. The league was very professional and the fans were great. One day I hope to be back in Germany on a team.
Before we talk about basketball I have to ask you how you have experienced COVID. You were in Italy and China since it broke. What was the most challenging thing for you to cope with on and off the court?
I never went to China. It was just a rumor. I got out of practice and my agent sent me a screen shot where it said I had signed in China. Nobody ever approached me. In terms of Covid, Italy was hit really hard. I was in Varese when Covid hit. My daughter was about to be born so I had to make the decision to go home or stay. I didn’t know if the season would be cancelled. I decided to go home to see the birth of my daughter. A week later the season was cancelled. It was the right decision. Seeing my daughter being born was the greatest feeling in my life. All in all being home with my family during Covid was the greatest feeling. I know guys that lost loved ones and others who didn’t have jobs. Covid hit everyone hard.
With everything you saw on and off the court how do you feel did it make you stronger as a man?
Covid made me realize how precious life is and the sport basketball. We dedicate ourselves to the game. This is what pays our bills. Some guys were at the start in the middle or at the end of their careers. Covid affected everyone is different ways. Covid really made me cherish sport and to always give my best.
Your playing your first season with Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus-Premier League) and playing VTB. How are you best prepared for the difficult travel that is involved?
Yes VTB is heavy traveling. I’m totally prepared for it. My rookie season I played Eurochallenge and I remember we traveled a lot. My season in Frankfurt we played Eurocup and we had a couple flights to Russia. Traveling doesn’t bother me. I’m so focused on basketball. Being able to play against amazing competition motivates me not to worry about the travel. I just try to play my best each game.
Winning the VTB title will be difficult, but how realistic does the club see their chances at raising the Fiba Europe Cup in May 2022?
Winning the Fiba Europe Cup is a goal of ours. We want to advance and then take it one game at a time. We beat a very good Greek team and feel good about our chances. We definitely want to be near the end in 2022.
In Frankfurt Gordon Herbert had you play the point guard position. How comforting is it being at the shooting guard position and getting fed by Angelo Warner?
It’s very comforting. We are slowly building chemistry together. He can do it all with scoring and passing. The team was missing some help at the 2 spot and I was glad to help. We both have been helping each other out and everyone else and just want to win games.
If one looks at your stats, they have been brutally consistent since your rookie season. Are you in your prime now or past it at age 31?
I feel I’m getting into my prime. Mentally I feel great and physically as well. My self-confidence is very high. I raised the stakes this season. I held out a bit longer than usual looking for the right fit. I see the VTB League and it really doesn’t get any better than that. I’m ready to continue to be consistent.
You have some very talented teammates. What kind of an experience has it been being teammates with Cuban Darol Hernandez-Zanenko who is called the Russian and has never had an agent. He seems to be a real character.
The first thing that stands out is that he is a really funny guy. He is also a great teammate. We have him play at the 5 even if he is undersized. But that doesn’t show because how big his heart is. He doesn’t score much, but he is a key part of our offense. He gives his all each possession. There are a lot of big guys in the VTB, but that doesn’t bother him. He fights against each player. That is the kind of player you always want and need on your team. He is willing to go to war on each possession.
Last season you played with Reale Mutua Basket Torino (Italy-Serie A2) averaging 14.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.1apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 58.1%, 3PT: 39.4%, FT: 88.6%. Talk a little about the A-2 league. It isn’t talked about much but is a very strong league with very strong players. How would you compare the league to other top leagues you have played in like the German BBL and Italian Serie A?
A lot of people don’t realize how tough the Italian A-2 is. There are very good Americans playing here. A lot of players come from higher leagues to play there. There are also a lot of great coaches as well. I was blessed to be on a great team in Torino. We played team basketball. There wasn’t an American that got the ball and shot the ball 100 times. We actually played defense. It is similar in style to the Serie A. there just aren’t as much Americans.
You have seen many crazy things in your basketball life, but tell me what was going through your mind at the end of game 5 against Tortona where you up 2-1 and lost game four and game five by one point each?
That final loss was a heartbreaker. It hurts till this day. In game 4 all we needed was for the ball to hit the rim and pop up and let time expire, but instead it dropped into the hands of the opponent and they won the game. In game 5 we got a questionable call and Jamar Sanders made the free throw to win the game and title. It stopped us from moving up to Serie A. It was the worst feeling in my basketball career. It hurt so much seeing how hard my teammates had fought all season to get to this position. But that loss motivated to get right back at it. But that is the glory of basketball in that there is always another day to compete.
You were teammates with American Kruize Pinkins who began in the German Pro A and made to the Italy via the German BBL. What was it like playing with this work horse?
He is a great guy. He was always professional and we had a good relationship. He is very talented and can shoot from many different positions. It was really cool to have him on the team.
Even if you never played in China eurobasket.com has 2 box scores of you in China. Many ex NBA players play in China and put up astronomical stats of like 35,0ppg. If you played 35 minutes how do you think would your stat line look like?
I would average 24 points, dish out 6 or 7 assists and have 5 rebounds per game.
In 2019-2020 you played with Openjobmetis Varese (Italy-Serie A,) averaging 11.3ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.6apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 56.6%, 3PT: 30.7%, FT: 83.3%. How did you rate that season until Covid came?
Serie A was a great experience. There are great teams, players and coaches there as well. I played against high talent. At that point that was the highest level that I had ever played at. It was amazing being able to have competed against such high talent.
You were teammates with Josh Mayo. What was it like sharing the back court with him? Which of you two ha s the more unorthodox jumper?
Yes we do. I don’t know which of us has the more unorthodox shot. He gets so much lift as he jumps shooting. He is still playing this season in Naples, Italy.
With what memories do you look back at your season with the Fraport Skyliners?.Statistically you had a good season. Where would you rank it statistically?
Stat wise I think it was one of my best seasons as a professional. It was my best season shooting the three and free throws. I felt I played very well all around. Gordie Herbert just put me in a great position to do well. Tyler Larsen believed in me and well Quantez Robertson did it all. It was one of my favorite seasons.
You have played with many many teammates over your career. Where do you rank Quantez Robertson alone from his sheer energy that he always gives?
Tez is my #1. He is the GOAT. I never saw a guy give it his all the way he did. You look at his age and you would think that he has got to slow down sometime, but he doesn’t. He goes out and plays 40 minutes, guards the other team’s best player and then still able to do it all on offense. He is also a great leader. He is also a funny guy. He always lightens the mood. He gets everybody to smile, but when it’s time to compete, he is a wolf. I heard about his injury. Other guys would be out for months, but he is supposed to miss 2-4 weeks. I bet he will be back even earlier.
Gordon Herbert is the German national team coach. What example can you remember from his coaching that really impressed you?
His mind for the game of basketball impresses me the most. It is at a very high level. It is amazing how he is able to control his players in terms of each guys different personality. That isn’t easy to do. He has so much confidence in his players. He always made it clear exactly what he wanted from each player. He is a coach that you want to battle for. He was one of my favorite coaches that I have ever played for. I had my best season under him, because he put me in the best position to sue my strength.
Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they just have left it alone?
No I didn’t see it. Of course they should of left it alone. The first is a classic. That is probably the reason why I didn’t see it. It got mixed reviews. I want to have the forever memory of the first one.
Thanks Jason for the chat.