Her journey to Arizona had its twists and turns, but incoming freshman embodies much of what Adia Barnes wants to see in her program. Last season, Barnes ran into problems with what she referred to as “attitudes.” According to Whistle Sports’ No Days Off feature on the 2022 guard, that’s not something Barnes will have to worry about when Clark arrives in Tucson.
“She’s the epitome of work ethic,” Long Island Lutheran head coach Christina Raiti told Whistle Sports.
That work ethic even came before family sometimes.
“Paris got to where she is today with hard work and dedication,” her mother Nancy Clark said. “I remember my family asking, ‘We don’t see Paris.’ I said, ‘Well, she’s working and you’ll see why later.’ And, now, they understand.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched Clark in the McDonald’s All-American game or the Jordan Brand Classic. Despite being in all-star games, Clark didn’t play like someone looking to pad her own stats. She hustled on defense. She set up teammates.
The Wildcats are known for defense, but one of the things they have been lacking for several years is rebounding. Aari McDonald was an effective rebounder from the guard position in college, and Barnes has said that she believes Clark will be, too. It’s part of what she’s been known for during her prep career.
“She was able to not only score but to rebound at a high level against some of the best in the country,” Raiti said.
That comes both from working on her own and from rising to the challenges created by her coaches.
“Paris is really good at what she does,” Raiti said. “But we try our best to challenge her in every single scenario so when she gets into the game it feels like second nature.”
It’s not just about the physical skills of basketball, though. Staying on an even keel emotionally has been important for Clark to learn, as well.
“Throughout the years, Coach Raiti has definitely taught me how to stay focused, how to stay neutral,” Clark said. “She’s pushed me to lead the team.”
There will be room for all of those skills and traits when Clark gets to Arizona. The Wildcats had difficulty scoring at times last season. That’s not a problem for Clark, who averaged 24.2 points in 18 games as a senior.
They need rebounding. Clark averaged 7.8 RPG last season.
And while there will be leaders like fifth-year senior Cate Reese on the team, former Wildcat Sam Thomas, who was a captain for five years, showed that it’s possible to be a leader from day one.
As for moving beyond last year’s interpersonal difficulties that Barnes has alluded to, when Clark signed in April, Barnes called her “a player that really fits us and is aligned with us culturally and in every way off the court which was one of the biggest things with her.”
Clark seems ready for that.
“I feel like I could bring a lot to the Arizona Wildcats,” Clark said. “Definitely defense, defensive intensity. Leadership, being able to cheer on my teammates. I’m gonna score cuz that’s the main goal of basketball. And I’m really gonna do whatever they need me to do and just win a national championship.