Texas Tech basketball: Chris Clarke’s “unselfish” act impresses Chris Beard

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Chris Clarke #44 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts during the second half of their game against the Louisville Cardinals at Madison Square Garden on December 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Chris Clarke #44 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts during the second half of their game against the Louisville Cardinals at Madison Square Garden on December 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

With Jahmi’us Ramsey ready to return from injury, Chris Clarke made an “unselfish” decision for the good of the Texas Tech basketball program, which impressed Chris Beard immensely.

How about we appreciate on this Christmas Eve a bit of warmth and togetherness from the Texas Tech basketball team?  Saturday afternoon, we saw the return of true freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey, the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game, after a four-game absence.

While it surprised no one to see the 6-foot-4 guard right back in his familiar place in the starting five, there could have been some controversy given how well grad transfer Chris Clarke had played as a starter in Ramsey’s absence.  But according to head coach Chris Beard, it was the senior’s decision to defer to his freshman teammate and go back to the bench to start the game against UT Rio Grande Valley.

"“It’s one of the most unselfish acts I’ve had in x-years of coaching, my whole career,” Beard said in the postgame press conference.  “Chris Clarke reached out to me personally and said ‘Look, I just want to win, I’d really prefer to come off the bench.  I think this is what our team needs.’  You know, I ultimately made the decision but for Chris to make that, that’s what you want.”"

There’s an old saying around college basketball that says, freshmen want to play, sophomores want to score, juniors want to start, and seniors want to win.  That certainly appears to hold true for Clarke, who joined the Red Raiders this summer after three seasons with Virginia Tech.

Even before this gracious move on his part, we had seen that he is wired differently than most college basketball players.  That’s because he’s been more interested in passing the ball to set up teammates for scores than in putting the ball in the bucket for himself.  At times, he’s gone to the extreme to find teammates while passing up quality looks of his own to the point that Beard said four games into the year that he had to find a way to get Clarke to be more selfish on offense.

That’s what we saw when he went into the starting lineup as he put up 10.5 points per game, up from the 4.1 he had been scoring off the bench.   And Saturday, he added another 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists in his return to the role of sixth-man.

"“That’s unselfishness.  That’s team basketball.  That’s how you win,” Beard said.  “So I want to recognize Chris again for that…It was really Chris’ decision in a roundabout way for Ramsey to get back in the lineup.”"

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine many players, especially seniors, sulk or withdraw after being replaced in the starting lineup by a freshman, especially after playing their best four games of the year.  In fact, you could make the case that Clarke became Tech’s best and most important player during Ramsey’s recovery from a hamstring injury.

In his first start of the year, he led the team with 17 points while grabbing 7 rebounds, and handing out 9 assists in an OT loss to Creighton.  And against Southern Miss, his final start before Ramsey returned, he had 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists to help his team fight off an upset bid at home.

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But volunteering to take a less prominent role is another example of the selflessness that we have seen from individual players throughout Beard’s tenure in Lubbock as several have accepted what might be considered lesser roles for the good of the team.  For instance, in 2017-18, senior Niem Stevenson went to the bench and became a key reserve when Beard decided to insert freshman Jarrett Culver into the starting lineup.

Former top-100 recruit Brandone Francis also embraced his role off the Red Raider bench becoming a key contributor on both of the last two teams, helping his team reach the Elite 8 and the National Title Game.

That self-sacrifice is at the core of Red Raider basketball these days.  It isn’t an option because for players to do what Beard asks, be first to the floor on loose balls, draw charges, commit to defense, play for your teammates and your school, the self can’t be the priority.

"“As a coach, that’s what you work for,” Beard said.  ” When you have unselfish people, you have a chance.”"

Only 11 games into his Red Raider career, we’ve already seen that Chris Clarke gets it.  He understands what it takes to have success the Chris Beard way and because of that, he is giving his team its best shot at making another deep run in March and April.

This team needs Clarke to come off the bench because he can do anything that the game calls for.  He can defend larger players in the post, he can create off the dribble, he can score, and he can rebound.

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What’s more, he’s also a steadying presence and as a reserve, he typically finds himself leading a unit that has three or often four freshmen on the court with him.  That’s where his leadership and experience is most needed and where he can make the biggest impact for his team.  And by willingly giving up a starting spot to one of those freshmen, he’s set the tone for the rest of his team.  A tone that will hopefully carry the Red Raiders back to the highest of heights.