Nova Notebook Postgame: Clark's Quick Return a Welcome Sight
Nov. 17, 2008
Jay Wright was inside the Davis Center cinema on Sunday with his team when senior forward Shane Clark approached him. The 6-7 Clark had just returned from a visit to his doctor to receive an update on the right knee surgery that he had undergone on Nov. 7 at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
"I'm good to go," Clark told his coach.
"Yeah," replied Wright, aware that he had not yet seen head athletic trainer Jeff Pierce, "we'll see. I thought he was just saying that. So I was shocked when I heard that he was cleared.
"I think I told you guys when it happened that it was minor. They did arthroscopic surgery but they said he was good and he looked good. He's out of shape so it's great to get him in. He makes such a difference for us. He's so smart and experienced and he does all the little things. It's great to have him out there."
So for the second time in as many games the story inside the Pavilion was one of two forwards. There was the return of Clark to the lineup, a mere 10 days after undergoing surgery. And there was once again the developing tale of Dante Cunningham, whose offense in a 107-68 victory over Fordham here on Monday night was the stuff of major headlines.
Cunningham's bottom line on Monday night included a career-best 31 points, on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, along with 11 rebounds. In two games thus far, the 6-8 Cunningham is 17-of-26 (.654) from the field and is averaging 22 ppg.
"Honestly, I wasn't even paying attention to how many I had or anything like that," stated Cunningham, whose previous career high was 21 points, a total he was just two shy of in the first half. "Every time down the court we were looking for each other. We were throwing the ball up the court, running hard and they were finding me in the right spot at the right time."
Of course, such gains aren't typically an accident. Cunningham spent abundant time inside the practice court at the Davis Center in the off-season, sharpening shooting skills and extending his range.
"I think I've been working a lot more on understanding where the shots are coming from and where I'm more comfortable on the court," he explained. "It really helped that Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and all the guards just got me the ball at the right places."
Wright has urged Cunningham to be more demanding of the basketball at the offensive end of the court.
"Coach told me I need to ask for it a lot more," he said. "I'm getting more and more comfortable with it."
"We need Dante to be a scorer," stated Wright. "Dante has had games - maybe not 31 point games - but good scoring games. But he hasn't done it consistently because he doesn't ask for it. As a coaching staff we have to demand it too because he can score. He can really score in a lot of ways.
"Besides our second half defense, that's what I felt great about tonight. Dante wanted it and continued to want it. Sometimes when you get a lead he'll just defer to everyone else."
As for Clark, he totaled 16 minutes and added eight points and one rebound.
"I felt great out there," stated the senior from Philadelphia. "Just being on the floor, it felt great to be with my teammates again, playing Villanova basketball.
"Like Coach said, it was minor. They just cleaned me out. I did all the rehabbing and was able to get back fast."
Added Wright: "I think I told you when it happened, he had the choice to play through the year with this, which he might have been able to do. He made this choice."
Notes - Wright indicated in his postgame remarks that he was hopeful junior center Casiem Drummond will be available when Villanova hosts Niagara on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU). The game is the first of four games the `Cats will play in the Philly Hoop Group Classic.
"Cas complained of pain in the top of his foot after the game on Friday," stated Wright. "He didn't do anything for two days and then had an MRI today. I would have used him if we needed him but since we didn't I didn't want to stretch him. I think he'll be good by Wednesday."