Smooth-shooting Great Britain big man Dan Clark was all set to spend last season with CAI Zaragoza in Spain’s ACB. Coming up through the Estudiantes youth programme, then senior team, he suffered through multiple nagging injuries over the past few years. Those problems resurfaced over last summer, as CAI withdrew their contract offer, before Clark declared himself fit to play for GB at Eurobasket. One of the main factors behind their pleasantly surprising 2-3 showing with a heavily depleted roster, nonetheless he found himself rebuilding his fitness away from the court.
We caught up with the London native back in his hometown, as he stepped onto the floor in the Hoopsfix All- Star Classic. After showing us he hasn’t lost his shooting knack, going 4-of-7 from downtown, he sat down with us to talk through the past season, this summer with GB and beyond.
ELA: You had a bit of a down year last season, sitting out most of it with injury. What can you tell us about how you’ve used that downtime, and what your plans are for next season?
Dan Clark: It hasn’t been an easy year, mentally trying to get round the fact I couldn’t play, it’s tough going to the gym every day, working on your body. I’m healthy now, my body’s feeling really good, I think I’m in pretty good shape at the moment, I’ve been working out pretty solidly since January. I’m feeling very confident with my body, which I don’t think I have done for a few years. Teams don’t have to worry about that anymore, which was one of the main things they did last season.
Mentally I’m a lot stronger now, I’ve realised what basketball is to me. Physically in the gym I’m a lot stronger, especially my upper body strength, so I think all these things will help me out in the longer term.
ELA: Can you tell us where you might be playing next season? Are you looking to stay in Spain, and have you been talking to any teams?
DC: Yeah, there are teams interested. Obviously in Spain I have a higher cache because of the fact that I was formed there, and they have to have five players on each team, so that’s a benefit for me. They’ve been asking about me, making sure I’m healthy, stuff like that, so it’s always good to know as a player that teams are asking about you, that you have options going into next year.
ELA: You’ve been in Spain a while, and as in a lot of European countries, it can be a fragile situation, if you get injured, often there aren’t many guarantees. How do you cope with that, is it always weighing on your mind, especially with your injury problems over the past few years?
DC: It is uncomfortable at times, especially regarding the economic situation in a lot of countries, like Spain. There are a lot of delays in payments, you might be four, five months behind with payments. It doesn’t give you peace of mind, but it’s something you have to deal with. Hopefully bit by bit it will get better and we won’t have to deal with it so much. Seven, eight years ago it was no problem at all. It’s just one of those things you’ve got to put up with and deal with. If you stop playing, you’re definitely not going to get your money. It’s the same for a lot of players, so you’re not on your own. Most of your team will be in the same boat, so it’s uncomfortable, but one that many people are going through.
ELA: Looking forward to the summer, Great Britain’s Eurobasket qualifiers are coming up, will you be part of the squad?
DC: Yeah, GB is phenomenally important to me. It’s my pride and joy to play for my country, and I have great fun doing it. I’ll always love to play for them as long as I can, until I can’t serve them anymore.
ELA: With an event like this [Hoopsfix Classic] that brings together a lot of guys like you, who maybe don’t get to play in front of fans in this country so much, what does it mean to the guys you played with and against today to be a part of it?
DC: It was a great event. I was here from the start this morning, when they had the kids’ camp on, so it was great to see all the different ages of British basketball coming through. It was a great day and Sam did a great job putting it on.
Amen to that, Dan. We’re all hoping he can be back in action in Spain next season. After a hellish time with injuries, he’s looking noticeably leaner and more mobile than before. While he still won’t be confused with a world-class athlete, a player with the size and strength to play centre but also step outside and space the floor is sure to be valued. Before that, Great Britain take on Bosnia Herzegovina and Iceland in August, in the qualifying round for Eurobasket 2015.