Clark is no passing fancy Woodlawn: Standout sophomore guard Mandy Clark, a transfer from South Carolina in the middle of last season, is proving her success then was no fluke.

January 18, 1998|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

When Mandy Clark transferred to Woodlawn last February, girls basketball coach Dave Schreiner was skeptical about the freshman's chances to earn a spot on his team so late in the season.

But because Clark had played varsity basketball at Timberland High in St. Stephen, S.C., Schreiner let her try out.

"She came out to practice the first day and she didn't try to impress anyone," said Schreiner, "but you could just tell that she had fantastic skills."

By the time the Warriors reached the regional playoffs, Clark had cracked the starting lineup.

This season, the 5-foot-8 guard is averaging 16 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven steals a game for the No. 15-ranked Warriors (9-3). She's also drawing a lot of attention with her effortless three-pointers, behind-the-back passes and slick spin moves.

After a flashy 21-point performance in a 59-42 win over Frederick, Cadets coach Tony Driebelbies was already comparing Clark to Cara Consuegra and Nikki Teasley, the state's top players last year. Consuegra, who led Linganore to two state titles and now plays at Iowa, was rated among the top 50 players in the nation. Teasley, a St. John's Prospect Hall graduate now at North Carolina, was rated No. 1.

"If she continues to play and work, she can be on that level," said Driebelbies. "She's a little bit quicker than Consuegra and she's a little bit shorter but does the same kinds of things as Teasley."

Even before she arrived at Woodlawn High, Clark had become somewhat of a local playground legend. Whenever she came to visit her sister, she spent time on the neighborhood court.

"She would come down during the summertime and people would say, 'That girl Mandy, she could tear you apart," said Warriors teammate Nicole Jeffers, who didn't meet Clark until she enrolled at Woodlawn.

As long as she can remember, Clark has been focused on basketball. She honed her skills against boys on the playground and in boys recreation leagues in St. Stephen, about 60 miles north of Charleston.

"I just love the game," said Clark, who idolizes Michael Jordan and Dawn Staley. Her goal is to be the first woman to go straight from high school to the WNBA.

Right now, Clark is happy to be at Woodlawn. She moved here to live with her sister, Tionne Lemon, after encountering a few family problems in South Carolina and, she said, the adjustment was an easy one.

The most difficult part was handling the hard work Schreiner expects in practice. Clark said the game here is more fast paced and Schreiner demands more endurance and effort.

"I was so out of shape I couldn't keep up," said Clark.

Since then, her endurance has improved and so has her work ethic -- at practice and in the classroom. Clark admits she was never much of a student, but now her grades have improved enough to make the B Honor Roll.

Although Clark felt some initial resentment from her new teammates, especially the ones who lost playing time to her, Warriors senior Carissa Ingram-Hall said once the other players realized how much Clark helped the team, the resentment disappeared.

"It seemed like it was always something that was missing," said Ingram-Hall. "We were good. We just needed something else. Mandy was that something else."

Clark's easy-going personality and her unselfishness with the ball also helped melt the ice. "She passes the ball so much, you got to keep your eyes open at all times or you might get hit," said Jeffers.

"Mandy is so unselfish that we have to get on her," said Schreiner. "She wants to get everyone else involved, which is good, but you have to know when it's time to step up and take charge."

In addition to maturing as a player, Clark needs work on her defense and still needs to be pushed sometimes to work hard, Schreiner said, but her shooting and passing skills amaze even him sometimes.

"She's fun to watch," he said. "The boys [team players] are in the stands at games and they say they're just waiting for the show. Mandy does a lot of things you don't see girls do."

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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