14-15 – Marv definitely had a roller coaster ride of a freshman season. He scored 55 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in his first 6 games as a Spartan, putting up a couple of 15 point games in that run. In particular his three point shooting had some wondering if Marv had been grossly underrated as a recruit and if he was set to have a truly great first year in East Lansing. The early success stopped cold in the 7th game against Kansas, where Marv went 0-7 and that was the start of the learning curve most had expected for him coming into the season. The biggest issue for Clark was on the defensive end. He had a hard time with switches (a must to grasp and execute if you’re going to play at MSU) and overall seemed lost. Not a surprise for a freshman in MSU’s defensive system but this MSU team really needed Marv to become functional.
MSU got into Big Ten play and Marv’s role was decreased. In the first 14 league games he played double digit minutes only 3 times, scored just 22 points and grabbed just 11 rebounds in those games. It was primarily for defensive reasons that Marv wasn’t getting more of an opportunity…he hadn’t yet earned trust. Often times walk-on Colby Wollenman was playing ahead of Clark in the rotation, which really told the tale as to where he was in terms of his understanding of what MSU needed from him.
Then in the home game loss against Minnesota, much as it did for Alvin Ellis, things began to turn around for Marv. He played 11 minutes, scoring 5 points and grabbing a board. That doesn’t seem like much but it began a string of the season’s final 12 games in which Marv played double digit minutes in 10 of them. He didn’t do much statistically against Wisconsin but was on the floor for 17 minutes and didn’t look out of place. He made good contributions in 24 big minutes in a home win over Purdue, helping MSU deal with Dawson’s absence due to a head injury, and then he (like Ellis) broke out with a huge game on the road in Bloomington. Marv played 28 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbing 6 boards, tying a season high. From there, it was clear he’d earned trust, as even when BJ came back into the lineup, Marv was getting consistent reserve minutes. His defensive play elevated, his rebounding was stronger and more purposeful than at any time this season, and he began to find ways other than the 3 to contribute on offense. Some will remember the missed free throws against Louisville but don’t forget that moments before that he showed great instincts by moving into a defensive gap in the lane late in the shot clock to give Zel a passing option and then he hit a contested mid range bank shot to give MSU the lead. Marv wouldn’t have made that play a month earlier.
Going Forward – The numbers don’t knock you out…11.7 mpg, 4.5 ppg and 2.2 rpg. He shot 51% from the floor overall but after a hot start cooled to a decent-but-not-great 34% from three. Yet, if you actually watched the games, you were left with the distinct impression that you were watching a player see his personal light start to turn on. The WHOLE deal with Marv next year is how he defends, IMO. That is where it starts for everyone at MSU but it’s very much the case for him. If he checks the way he did down the stretch (or,let’s hope at an even higher level) then he’ll play, perhaps quite a bit.
Marv offers unique elements to this team. He’s athletic and really, really strong. More than the numbers, I saw some rebounding moments from him late where he started to even LOOK a bit like BJ Dawson, getting up higher than anybody else and just owning the ball. He’s not Branden but he can give you at least some of the same things as an undersized 4 man, with athleticism, strength and physical toughness. MSU will need him to be able to help counter certain matchups and lineups from opponents along the way, as he’s the best option to fill that role. Of course the fact that he also possesses some honest to God offensive skills helps him as well. I think you can play Marv against a zone, giving you another shooting option while not giving away too much defensively or on the glass. He started to show some tentative steps toward a dribble drive game.
MSU suddenly has a crowded frontcourt and crowded roster in general. Minutes will not come easily for most guys and I can see Marv being in a spot where his PT changes from game to game, due to matchups as much as anything else. Yet, I think his future is extremely bright. I don’t think anyone can say with certainty where he ends up as a player. There are reasons to be very optimistic and yet it’s also true that serious strides still remain to be taken. I can see a wide variety of outcomes for him next year, ranging from being a starter to a 9th or 10th guy in the rotation. Regardless, I think he’s shown enough already to suggest that he was a good get in last year’s recruiting class and that he should be an important four year player in this program.