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Beating the Odds

Nobody Wanted Him. Now He’s a Star

You can bet that more than one Division I basketball coach would love a 6-foot-6 guard/forward with a scoring touch. Well, hundreds of coaches had a shot at just such a player — and passed.
Meet Raiquan Clark of LIU Brooklyn, leading scorer in the Northeast Conference. He’s a star. Four years ago, in search of scholarship money, he emailed every D-I school in the country.
“Every school, I promise you,” Clark recently told The New York Post. “I’d wake up and do some, and do some more before I went to sleep, and I kept going for like a week. And I just waited for a reply.”
Only two schools bothered to reply, and neither one offered anything. So Clark walked on at LIU Brooklyn.
“It’s not like he was a recruited walk-on,” former LIU coach Jack Perri said. “It was like, we need another body, and we didn’t want a 5-9 kid. It was, as long as he understands it’s something where he’s not gonna be playing and he’s gonna be a practice player.”
Clark is no longer a practice player. He’s just another example of a hidden gem — a superstar hiding in plain sight. It wasn’t long before Perri knew he had a player with extraordinary focus, driven by a wish to help his mom with tuition.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and he has a unique motor, and by the end of the year, it was obvious he was going to be in our plans going forward,” Perri said. “He was getting shots in at 7 in the morning, he was working out at midnight. He was obsessed with, ‘I’m getting myself good enough so that you have to give me a scholarship, so my mom won’t have to pay for college.’ I have such immense respect for him for the hard work he put in. He just willed himself.”
That’s the thing about hidden gems. You can’t measure what’s inside them. You can’t see what drives them. But you can give someone a chance. Because there are hidden gems everywhere.
Derek Kellogg, Clark’s current coach at LIU Brooklyn, is one of the coaches who passed on Clark. He used to be at Massachusetts and, “I probably got one (email) and shuffled it aside.”
Now Kellogg knows that you never know.
“The second pick in the draft is gonna come from Murray State [Ja Morant],” Kellogg said. “That goes to show there are a lot of players out there. You just have to find the right ones.”
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