Chante Clarke isn’t likely to get many starts for Memorial Sea-Hawks this season, but she may be the first player off the bench and, after sitting out all last season, that’s fine with her.
Memorial University Sea-Hawks rookie Chante Clarke.
The 20-year-old Toronto native practised with the Sea-Hawks last season without seeing any Atlantic University Sport (AUS) action.
It was no big deal, she said, because she wasn’t ready, anyway.
“I wasn’t in shape, and, at that point, I hadn’t played basketball for about two years,” she said.
Despite only practising, she said she learned a lot.
“I was learning how to play defence differently than I was used to, and learning how to utilize my strengths on offence, which was something I was also not used to.”
She said before practice this week that while she didn’t play last season, her teammates always made her feel a part of the squad and she travelled with the Sea-Hawks to the AUS playoffs in New Brunswick.
Noticed the difference
Clarke said she supported the team as best she could as a red shirt while noticing the differences between high school and the AUS in terms of competition and skill level.
“It’s more fast paced and the girls are bigger and more determined,” she said.
Now she said she’s excited about getting her chance to play.
“I’m a bit nervous, since I haven’t played basketball competitively for in so long, but I’m happy to be playing.”
Asked if she is satisfied with her progress, Clarke said, “Although sometimes it doesn’t appear that I am happy with my progress, I am.
“I’m doing things that I’ve never considered when I was playing back in high school.”
She said she played the power forward/centre position in high school, so she didn’t really work on her shooting an didn’t take many shots in games.
“Now that I’m playing for Memorial, I find myself taking more shots and having a little more confidence in taking them.”
This season, she expects to be used as a small forward/power forward.
“In practice, we play other spots sometimes so we know how to play all positions just in case. However, I mostly play post if I play another position.”
Wherever she plays on court, she says she hopes to bring, “intensity, fast pace and energy.”
Memorial coach Doug Partridge said Clarke has all the tools to be special.
“She can do a lot of things well, and she’s just trying to settle into playing in a team system that will be a little more detailed than what she is used to,” the MUN coach said.
“She won't be a three-point shooter,” said Partridge, “but she is quick and sudden with the ball. She finishes and rebounds well and plays at both ends.”
Partridge said Clarke will probably start the year as the team’s sixth player, “providing a very tough matchup off the bench.”
Born in Toronto, Clarke attended Downsview Secondary School where she played basketball for four years.
She said she loved all sorts of sports growing up, participating in volleyball, soccer and track and field.
“I had a really rough childhood and sports basically changed my life around, entirely for the better,” she explained.
She said her mother, Denise, who was born in Jamaica, is the person who inspires her.
Though she didn’t elaborate, Clarke said her mother had a, “difficult life and didn’t get the opportunities that I got. She inspires me by making me want to have a better life than she did, and to be grateful for every chance in life that I have received.”
Clarke said she’s “extremely” grateful for the chance to play for the Sea-Hawks.
“He (Partridge) could have chosen anyone else, but I’m glad he chose me,” she noted.
It’s obvious the personable Clarke is in a good place these days — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
“Before every practice, we take a moment to clear our minds from the distractions of the day so that we can focus on what we need to do for practice,” she said.
“I use that time to pray. At the end of my prayer, I always thank God for giving me this opportunity and state my appreciation.”