By Tom Ballato
It wasn’t long ago that Raiquan Clark sent letters and emails to coaches all over the country asking for an opportunity to play at the Division I level. A dream most of us dream about growing up with the chance to play in sold-out arenas, silence opposing gyms on the road, and have an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.
For Clark, that dream came true at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. Former LIU coach Jack Perri took Clark in as a walk-on, an opportunity that changed his life.
Clark was ready to prove himself, and it didn’t take long. He redshirted as a freshman appearing in one game for two minutes of a blowout. It was a challenging experience mentally for him sitting out after being a star at James Hillhouse High School in Connecticut, and Trinity-Pawling in New York, where Clark played a post-graduate season.
After his first year at LIU, he would receive a full scholarship, something that he promised his mother. He began his time at LIU as a nursing major. “My mom, she’s a nurse. I look up to her in a lot of ways. She’s a hard worker, caring, and an amazing person. I wanted to go into nursing if basketball didn’t work out for me,” Clark responded. His studies as a nursing major didn’t allow him to work out enough, so Clark switched to media arts.
Clark became a starter during his junior year, a year where LIU made a coaching change and brought in Derek Kellogg. He averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and the team made a run in the NEC Tournament and clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2018. LIU had a roster of unselfish players, and the locker room during that run was locked in, according to Clark.
Derek Kellogg runs a fast-paced offensive system, which allowed Clark to play within his game. A system where you need to play defense and will enable you to get open down the court. Clark was great in isolation and played defense every night.
Heading into the 2019-2020 season, Clark received a waiver to play in his fifth year after redshirting as a freshman. “I was confident I was going to get a waiver because I knew as a freshman I didn’t play,” Clark said. He described this past season as tough because there were many new faces, and it took some time to figure things out collectively as a team. LIU also went through many injuries, including the loss of Eral Penn, a defensive anchor for the team. Losing Penn had LIU playing a smaller lineup that featured Clark in the 4 and 5 positions.
In February, Clark became LIU’s all-time leading scorer with a go-ahead basket in overtime to win a game. He would finish his career at LIU with 2,030 points and have his name etched in the record books.
Off the court, Clark enjoyed his time in Brooklyn. LIU’s campus is located in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, and there is always something to do. The Brooklyn Nets are down the road, you are a bridge away from Manhattan, and Dumbo isn’t too far from campus. Clark embraced the small school environment and got to meet many people and eventually wants to move back to Brooklyn. LIU wasn’t too far from his home either. With his friends and family in New Haven, Connecticut, they could attend almost all his home games, something that Clark called special.
Clark has been in the gym working out multiple times a day. He is working on shooting and trying to improve defensively. Clark can guard the 1-4 at the next level and impact both ends of the floor. He can play through physicality when attacking the rim and has excellent footwork for a 6-foot-6 forward.
His agent has been in touch with a few NBA teams, and Clark expects overseas offers soon. There has been an interest for Clark to play in the NBA G-League, but he will tell you he’s just ready to play basketball again.
From a walk-on to a program’s all-time leading scorer, Clark has given hope to many young kids across the country, and he’s still writing his story.