When Chris Clarke was injured during practice between games against Saint Joseph’s and West Virginia, most fans didn’t expect to see Clarke again this season. If anything, fans hoped that the Hokies would play enough games so that Clarke could get a medical redshirt with that hope increasing after Virginia Tech’s strong ACC start.
However, Clarke made an unexpected return in last night’s blowout loss at Virginia. Yes, the loss was very disappointing for the Hokies, but the return of Clarke should increase fans’ optimism about a strong finish to the season along with earning a spot in the NIT.
In his return, Clarke only played 13 minutes but was statistically effective with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from the free-throw line along with 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Clarke gives the Hokies an athletic player that can slide between playing an attacking small forward, or an undersized but athletic power forward with the toughness to get the job done.
Clarke brought plenty of toughness earlier this season and seems ready to do that again for the Hokies as someone that can put up 15 points and 8 rebounds in 25 to 30 minutes. Clarke allows the Hokies to also go with one true big man whether it’s Zach LeDay or Kerry Blackshear, because of Clarke’s toughness and above-average rebounding.
No one should be surprised if Clarke starts in eight days at Miami after he proved that he was one of Virginia Tech’s best players once again. If Clarke can handle it, he should be playing at least 25 to 30 minutes per game for the Hokies whether he is being used in the role of a big man or a small forward.
Clarke makes the Hokies better right now before an important closing stretch in which Virginia Tech a 4-2 finish would give Virginia Tech a .500 ACC record and most likely guarantee the Hokies make a postseason return in the NIT. The fact that the Hokies are in this position with the injuries they have had to deal with makes the job Buzz Williams has done even more impressive.
Despite the loss last night, Chris Clarke’s return should have fans more optimistic about making the NIT, not less even with that loss being by 19 at rival Virginia.