Hooping It Up / Bull Dogs benefit from senior’s return to basketball

Casper Clark has known since right after his freshman year that he would eventually head to Indiana University to play baseball after graduation.

But Clark wasn’t a one-sport athlete. He helped lead the Columbus North freshman basketball team to an undefeated season that year and as a sophomore, played for the junior varsity.

After taking a year off from basketball, Clark is back, and he’s playing a huge role for a Bull Dog team that went 18-5 in the regular season and has aspirations of making a tournament run.

“I kind of had my heart broken a little bit my sophomore year,” Clark said. “I didn’t really see the light on how hard I was working for the basketball team. “I was like, ‘Basketball is not even my first sport, so it wasn’t really worth it.’ Then junior year, I was like, ‘I’m going to leave it up to myself. I’m going to get what I earned,’ and I really thought that it would work out for me, and it has. I don’t regret it at all.”

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The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Clark has been a force inside for North. He moved into the starting lineup midway through the season and is tied for third on the team in scoring (7.3) and tied for second in rebounds (4.2).

“It’s been a big shot in the arm,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “Casper is a big boy, and he brings a Division I mentality to our team. He’s a great athlete, he’s a winner and he’s very competitive. So we were thrilled when he came back.”

Ferguson said Clark’s influence on the team goes beyond the numbers.

“Casper is a really strong communicator, and just his communication has helped our guys both on and off the court,” Ferguson said. “I think he’s a guy who’s willing to say things to guys like, ‘Here’s things you have to get better at,’ and he’s willing to receive some criticism for himself. So it’s not only his physical presence, but his emotional and verbal presence has really helped our team.”

The best game of the season for Clark came Jan. 31 in a 78-59 win at Southport. He went 9 for 9 from the field on his way to a game-high and career-high 19 points and also led the Bull Dogs with six rebounds.

Clark is coming off an eight-point performance in a big all-around effort in Thursday’s 64-42 win against Center Grove to close the regular season.

“He’s been an anchor under the basket for us,” Ferguson said after that game. “It’s nice to have guys who can rebound and play around the rim. He played a really complete game tonight — a lot of little things offensively and defensively that he did really well that we worked on throughout the week. So it’s exciting to see his growth as we head to sectional.”

North received a first-round bye in its own sectional and will play Friday against the winner of tonight’s first-round matchup between Columbus East and Class 4A No. 1 Bloomington South.

“We’ve had a really good season, playing as a unit, especially,” Clark said. “Coach Ferg says the big monster is jealousy, and I don’t think we’ve had any of that. Everybody is supporting each other, rooting for each other, so I think that has a lot to say about our success. I think we’re on the right path for sectional.”

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Columbus North Sectional

Today

6 p.m.: East Central vs. Martinsville

7:30 p.m.: Columbus East vs. Bloomington South

Friday

6 p.m.: Bloomington North vs. East Central-Martinsville winner

7:30 p.m.: Columbus North vs. Columbus East-Bloomington South winner

Saturday

7:30 p.m.: Championship

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