If you’re a real college basketball fan, you will know Kihei Clark from his insane game-saving, high-IQ play in the 2019 Elite Eight. Clark collected a long rebound and fired a half court dime to assist on a game-tying buzzer beater. Virginia went on to take down Purdue in overtime and win their first ever national championship two games later. But Clark was not a one-hit wonder, and he followed up a solid freshman campaign with a far better sophomore season, and he slots in at #4 in our top returning ACC guard countdown.
Clark ranked third in the ACC with 5.9 assists per game last season, and on a low-scoring Virginia squad, he was second on the team with 10.8 points per game. Another sneakily impressive statistic is his 4.2 rebounds per game. Not only is that mark quite solid for a guard, but Clark is 5’9, yet he still collects his lion’s share of boards. With UVA’s top scorer and top two rebounders graduating, Clark will be the key to the Cavaliers’ offense in 2020-21.
Clark’s gritty style of play was on display from Game 1 this season, as in an ugly season-opening 48-34 win over Syracuse, Clark dropped ten points and grabbed 11 rebounds while playing the whole game. The California product was a consistent playmaker for Virginia all year, and he elevated his game in certain big situations, posting a 13 point, 8 rebound, 7 assist slash line in a road overtime win at Wake Forest, a team that slaughtered Duke. In a visit to #5 Louisville, Clark poured in 23 points on the Cardinals, to go with five rebounds and seven assists. When Virginia ended the abbreviated season on a 8-game winning streak, it coincided with Clark’s most consistent stretches of the season, as he averaged 12 points a game with efforts of 17, 17, and 18 points while continuing to be a defensive stalwart for the stingy Cavaliers. It’s hard to quantify the impact that Clark has on each basketball game, but his clutch factor is undeniable, and his numbers are quickly improving. If he makes similar strides in his junior season, Clark will be even better than this #4 ranking in this countdown. Watch out for Kihei Clark in 2020.