Men’s basketball: Merrillville grad Brandon Clark makes good on second chance
Brian Peloza Post-Tribune correspondent March 25, 2013 10:52PM
Updated: April 27, 2013 6:34AM
WEST LAFAYETTE — Santa Clara sophomore Brandon Clark was waiting for a second chance, he just didn’t expect it to come so soon.
In front of 37 family members and friends, the Merrillville graduate hit two key free throws with eight seconds remaining in the Broncos’ 86-83 win at Purdue on Monday in the College Basketball Invitational quarterfinals.
It was sweet redemption after missing a key late free throw in an upset loss to Loyola Marymount in the opening round of the West Coast Conference Tournament.
“I was really hard on myself (after the WCC Tournament) but the coaching staff did a great job of keeping my spirits up and they said I would have another chance,” said Clark, who finished with nine points and three assists. “I’m thinking I’ll have to wait all the way until next year, but I was just waiting on my next chance because I knew I would make it.”
Santa Clara (22-11) was clinging to an 83-81 lead with 8.3 seconds remaining when Clark was fouled. He stepped to the line and calmly made both free throws, pushing the Broncos’ lead to two possessions, 85-81.
“For him to have a chance, poetically, in our postseason to hit the two free throws to kind of seal it for us in front of his home crowd should be a confidence boost for him,” Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said.
Clark finished with nine points and three assists in 21 minutes, slightly above his season averages of 7.5 points and 2.6 assists per game.
He’s shot 46 percent from beyond the arc this season, averaging 18 minutes per game as one of the Broncos’ top reserves.
“He’s a key part of our program and has been a great addition,” Keating said. “Knowing he has a guy playing some major minutes in front of him, he’s really earned his way into the rotation and developed into someone we can count on....I’m excited to see where our program can go with him because I think his best basketball is still ahead of him.”
Santa Clara has four 1,000-point scorers on its roster, three of which will graduate. The lone returning of the four — Evan Roquemore — and Clark already have plans for the offseason: Watch lots of tape of Louisville guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.
“Every day we’re going to watch Louisville clips because they’re not big guards, but they get after the ball on defense,” said Clark, who is 6-foot, 165 pounds.
Santa Clara flew into Chicago and stopped at Portillo’s in Merrillville on Sunday for a team meal, which included Clark’s mother Kimberly Julkes, and step-father, Jeffrey Julkes, joined.
Keating allowed Clark to pick where the team would eat, as he does often on trips to players’ hometown to gain “some local flavor.”
The Italian beef sandwich Clark had at Portillo’s hit the spot, but not as much as his team’s win on Monday.
“I always hoped to play for Purdue or play at Purdue,” said Clark, who is the God-brother of former Purdue and East Chicago Central standout E’Twaun Moore. “I got one of my wishes (on Monday), and I got a win, too.”