By Harlan Nemers
As the Ryerson Rams starting point guard her job is far from simple. At the same time she is calling out plays, Ashley Clarke must decide whether or not she will pass the ball the ball off to a teammate or attack the rim.
In her rookie season, Clarke has quietly guided the Rams to a near-playoff berth while staying atop of the league in numerous statistical categories.
The 21-year-old from Montreal is in the top of the league in several major stats, easily making her a candidate for the East Division Rookie of the Year.
While her success on the court is undeniable, until recently, soccer was Clarke’s real passion.
“I was never really a basketball player growing up, it was always soccer, soccer, soccer,” said Clarke.
Clarke fell in love with soccer when she was five years old after she subbed in as a missing player on her cousin’s all-boys team.
After receiving accolades from her fellow players and coaches, her mother got her to join a house league team where she eventually climbed the league ranks, and eventually ended up playing for a triple-A team in Quebec.
At eight years old Clarke played in the Québec Cup, Canada’s provincial equivalent to the World Cup for youngsters, which she would compete in for the next six years.
As her soccer career was winding down, she had a choice of either trying to go semi-pro, which meant trying out for Laval University’s club in Quebec or switching to basketball.
“I loved soccer but I was getting bored [with it] and my love for basketball was too strong,” she said. “I love the action in basketball, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.”
In grade 10, her high school physical education teacher was impressed with her athletic ability and told Clarke to try playing basketball. At first she resisted the notion. At only five foot five inches, Clarke thought that she would never be good enough to play.
“It was self-motivation. But when my father passed away in 2007 to his battle with cancer, my determination was so much stronger because my dad was my number one fan and I wanted to make him proud.”
Clarke, who was recruited by Ryerson during the provincials last year where she won gold medal, is making waves throughout the women’s basketball community.
Amongst rookies, she is second in steals per game 2.65, first in minutes per game averaging 32.71 minutes per game as well as first in assists per game with 3.53.
“She could be the Rookie of the Year,” said Rob Wright, an assistant coach on the women’s basketball team.
“She’s done a great job for us. We’ve given her a lot of responsibility as a rookie [and] so far she’s stepped up.”
While many of her teammates believe that she is deserving of the annual award, captain Kelsey Wright said that by her fifth year that Clarke is going to be an extremely succesful and potentially win a CIS Player of the Year Award
“I always wished for an award like that,” said Clarke.
“[But] doing well as team overall means more to me than my individual performance.”
Photo by: Steven Goetz