Gonzaga vs. Tennessee: Brandon Clarke shows off NBA potential with monster block at the rim
Clarke has been a revelation for the top-ranked Bulldogs all season, and was great despite the loss on Sunday
Gonzaga star Brandon Clarke was riding the pine for the Bulldogs last season, serving the NCAA-mandated season on the bench after transferring away from San Jose State and into Mark Few's program. After averaging 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game at his previous stop, Clarke was expected to make an early impact. But for a Gonzaga team flush with NBA talent, including Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie, he wasn't expected to push for the right to be the team's best player. Yet 10 games in, he's doing exactly that.
Clarke was once again sensational on Sunday,, he flashed his NBA potential not just with his scoring -- he had a team-high 21 on 8 of 12 shooting -- but with his rebounding and blocking. He had 9 boards and 2 stuffs, none more impactful than this Thanos-like swat early in the second half. It's almost as if he can levitate above his opponent, hit slow motion, then pinpoint where the ball is in mid-air.
Clarke's meteoric rise has been ushered in by an unlikely preseason injury to Tillie, with whom he will likely share frontcourt duties when he returns. But he's earned the right to keep the majority of the minutes he's soaked up because of his elite shot-blocking ability, which has him soaring up draft boards. He's No. 25 in my latest.
Clarke is in the top five nationally in blocks per game this season; according to KenPom he has a 12.6 percent block rate, which ranks inside the top 20 in the country. But he does a lot of other things well, too, like his top-10 eFG% of 73.3, his 71.8 true shooting percentage which ranks 15th nationally, and his overall impact for the Zags on a nightly basis.
Hachimura and Clarke both finished with 21 in the Zags' loss Sunday to the Vols, dropping them to 9-1 on the season as they head into a huge nonconference showdown this upcoming Saturday against North Carolina.
Hachimura certainly deserves the shine he's getting this season, and he may still be Gonzaga's best pro prospect, but Clarke has quickly bridged the once-sizable gap through one-third of the season. That breathtaking block is a perfect encapsulation of how stupendous and impactful he's been all season -- and perhaps serves as a mini-preview of how good he can be at the next level.
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