NORMAL — Justin Clark came into Illinois State’s basketball program with the reputation as a scorer. Yet, from the start, Clark never found his shooting touch.
After two difficult seasons with the Redbirds, Clark apparently decided that was enough. ISU coach Tim Jankovich announced Sunday in a news release that Clark will not return next season and is leaving campus.
“Hopefully a fresh start will have a positive impact for him,” said Jankovich, who was out of town recruiting.
The 6-foot-4 Clark had impressive credentials out of William Chrisman High School in Independence, Mo. He finished with 2,148 career points and ranked second in Missouri state history with 343 made career 3-pointers. Clark was considered the No. 1 recruit in the Missouri Valley Conference by several recruiting services.
However, Clark made 2-of-27 3-pointers to begin his freshman season at ISU. His two-year mark was 23.3 percent from outside the arc (24 of 103).
Clark scored a career-high 20 points against Tennessee State last season when he started nine games. His high school teammate, forward Jon Ekey, also signed with ISU in November 2008 and will be a sophomore next season.
How much Clark figured into the Redbirds’ plans for the 2011-12 season was unclear. Ironically, his defensive work against taller perimeter opponents was more valued in his ISU career than his offense.
Jankovich and his staff signed two junior college guards — Tyler Brown and Darious Clark (no relation) — in the spring to go with freshmen recruits Nic Moore, Johnny Hill and Nick Zeisloft. ISU also will return juniors Anthony Cousin and Trey Blue in the backcourt, while sophomore Bryant Allen (transfer from Minnesota) will join the team when the football season is completed.
Clark was unavailable for comment. It is not known where he might be transferring, although a school closer to his home could be a possibility.
Clark’s departure means ISU will have at least one scholarship available for the class of 2012. One of the Redbirds’ top recruiting targets figures to be Normal Community High School guard Anthony Beane Jr., the son of Redbird assistant coach Anthony Beane.