Kihei Clark to Participate in NBA Pre-Draft Workout With LA Lakers
By Matt Newton,2023-05-26
When Kihei Clark's five-year collegiate career at Virginia came to an end in March, most assumed that if Clark was going to continue his basketball career, the next step would have to be playing overseas. Mostly due to his undersized stature at 5'10", most have written off any possibility of the four-time All-ACC selection playing in the NBA.
But, while most of the focus has been on Reece Beekman 's looming decision to keep his name in the NBA Draft or return to Virginia for another season - a decision that will come within the next week - at least one NBA organization has expressed an interest in seeing what Beekman's UVA backcourt counterpart might have to offer at the next level.
According to a report this week from ESPN's Dave McMenamin, former Virginia point guard Kihei Clark will participate in a pre-draft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
The Lakers, who were just eliminated by the No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, have picks No. 17 and No. 47 in the 2023 NBA Draft, which will be held on June 22nd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Of course, the Lakers or any other NBA team could also sign Clark as an undrafted free agent assuming he is not picked in the draft.
Clark's height will mean he will have trouble guarding anyone on the floor, as most NBA point guards are 6'3" or taller and in the switch-heavy NBA, he would often be pressed to guard players nearly a foot taller than him. Additionally, his offensive numbers don't jump off the page nearly enough - 10.7 points per game and 35.2% three-point shooting in 2022-2023 - to make up for him likely being considered a defensive liability due to his physical attributes.
So, Clark is far from the prototypical NBA Draft prospect, but the fact that he has his foot in the door with a legendary NBA franchise like the Lakers is a major step in the right direction. And given how Clark has proven the doubters wrong through his entire basketball career, it certainly doesn't hurt to at least give him the opportunity.
At every level of basketball he has played in so far, Clark has always compensated for his size deficiency by relying on his quick feet and reflexes to play stingy on-ball defense. Most college coaches doubted Clark's ability to play at the major conference level except for Tony Bennett, who watched and enjoyed as Clark helped Virginia win a national championship, three ACC regular season titles, more ACC games than any player in the history of conference and more total games than any Cavalier in program history. Clark proved he could defend at the highest level in college as well, earning a selection to the ACC All-Defensive Team in 2023 and a nod on the watch list for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-2021.
Clark's offensive numbers aren't much to write home about, but he was very good at operating Virginia's slow-tempo and conservative offense. There's a chance that his offensive game could take a big step forward with the freedom, spacing and up-tempo nature of the NBA. The key to Clark getting an opportunity will likely be for him to develop a consistent three-point shot and to show he can hold his own on the defensive end. That's how Jose Alvarado, an undersized point guard out of Georgia Tech, carved out a role for himself with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Tony Bennett often compared Kihei Clark to Muggsy Bogues, Bennett's former a teammate on the Charlotte Hornets who, despite being the shortest player to ever play in the NBA at 5'3", enjoyed a successful 14-season career. Other "shorter" players have managed to do the same, such as Chris Paul and Isaiah Thomas.
It's not unheard of for a player of Clark's stature to play in the NBA, but it will require an incredible amount of work on Clark's part to make it happen. From what he accomplished over the last five years in Charlottesville, it should come as no surprise to UVA fans if Clark puts in the necessary work and makes an opportunity for himself in the NBA. For now, even receiving this invite to work out with the Los Angeles Lakers has to be a dream come true for Kihei Clark, a native of Woodland Hills, California.
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