Kris “KC” Clark, International Pro Basketball Player & Business Owner | Hoop Story #056

Kris “KC” Clark, International Pro Basketball Player & Business Owner | Hoop Story #056

Talk about where you are from and how that shaped your game?

Growing up in Wilmington, everyone that I grew up under was around for and/or fans of the Micheal Jordan era. There were players, ones that necessarily didn’t make it out, those were the ones I kind of learned from. Their style of game was real smooth, wasn’t too rigid and everyone didn’t have the same move sets. It allowed me to develop so many different parts of the game. I got to learn it in full and enjoy the pureness of it. If you want to be a point guard, know what every position is doing, develop an all around game, expand your repertoire. In reflection, hearing what people thought of me in the past I now know I was going in the right direction. It was predicated by focusing on me, my game and how I can help the team win. I wasn’t the fastest or strongest but I truly found my own identity by emulating what I saw from older guys. Also always playing basketball with older guys really helped too.

What is one of your first true memories with the game that signaled that this is more serious than recreation?

My first true memory was playing biddy ball. My coach at the time Ron Davis birthed a program in which kids of all age groups were held to the same intensity. Us at 6 years old were held to the same standards as the 12 year olds. There was a drill where we had to take weighted basketballs and wrap them around our backs while walking baseline to baseline. Of course it seemed easy as we watched the older kids do it in the practice before or after us. It was when we actually started the drill where I realized things such as coordination and control were also part of the game. I thought to myself, “I know I can do this, but if my teammate drops his, he is going to have to start over.” Little did I know that not only he had to start over but everyone had to start over. Understanding that we have to be accountable and that one mistake can mess it up for everyone is a lifelong lesson.

To learn that at just 6 years old was very important. Obviously, there were fun moments like playing outside but being put in a team training aspect and actually putting in work opened a new perspective on the game. It wasn’t just, “Hey dribble up and down the court!” Our coach taught us the game early no matter how crazy it may have seemed. He didn’t allow us to double dribble or any of that. All in all it helped, because most people from that team went on to play high school varsity and more due to that initial training and development.

Tell us about your career as a player?

I played high school basketball in Wilmington at New Hanover High, was a part of a few AAU programs in NC and did a prep year at Laurinburg Prep in Laurinburg, NC. It was one of the best teams I’ve ever played on. 13 out of 14 of us from that team went division 1. From there I committed to play at University of New Orleans and my freshman year didn’t go as according to plan. I transferred out to a JUCO team in Indiana (Vincennes) in order to not sit out a year due to transfer rules. From there I went to Utah St. where I finished playing college basketball. I had the privilege of playing with the winningest coach in school history, breaking the record for all-time single season assists, and playing alongside the Utah St. all-time leading scorer Jaycee Carroll. I honestly didn’t know I broke the single season record until the next day. All three things were happening concurrently. The time at Utah St was important to my basketball career.

I didn’t hear too much from the NBA side, which was the ultimate goal, besides workouts with a few teams such as the Kings and Toronto Raptors. I ended up with the Utah Jazz G-League team Utah Flash for a few and then my first offer from Europe hit. From there I went on to play in England for the London Lions, Germany, Australia, Peru, Saudi-Arabia, Bolivia and more. Many people in NY recognize me from playing for the Westchester Knicks for their very first season in the G-League.

I’ve gotten to make connections, keep up with players and enjoy seeing their success as veterans. They were rookies when I was around and I remember being a rookie and the mindset associated with it. To see them move on to break records, become champions, have their own shoes, play in USA qualifiers, etc you are associated with that. I remember those talks I used to have as a “vet”, encouraging people to stay locked in, maintain positive habits when I leave. I'm just appreciative of the fact that I could play a beneficial role in the places I’ve been.

What is different about the overseas environment than America?

For the first couple of years I was in smaller countries which resulted in less crowded stadiums but the intensity of the overseas games were shocking. You see things like red flares and fire in the stands, language barriers, people trying to trash the opposing team locker rooms and more, but it comes from a place of love and passion which makes it cool.

When you come from America you don’t understand walking down the street if people are saying, “You need to win this game.” it probably really means you need to win. You may not find out until you get to the gym that there may be previous bad history between coaches, areas or organizations. We’re walking into something that has been around for years and years and when you touch down you are now a part of it and have to suit up.

I tell people that the overseas basketball experience is different but it's life changing as well. Perfect example, I don’t know how you may have felt during the lockdown but it has a similar vibe in some ways. You really have to just sit there and figure out what to do, what you're thinking about and do it straight for 7 months. Get up, go to morning practice, go lift weights, take a nap, go to night practice, do it over again. Maybe, you have some family and friends come around and your routine changes a little bit but you still have to do your job on a daily basis. Of course you have ones that could do things like party or stay on the phone all night and still perform. However, you could see how overtime these things affected their careers and outcomes. 

What are some lessons you have taken from your career? 

That you have to trust the timing of your life and know your moment will arrive, just make sure your’re prepared. I would consider myself a journeyman simply because the things I’ve done and places I’ve been, people would probably give it up as soon as they get there. Anytime I touched down in a new place I was instantly motivated to go on. I would think about things like how I can impact my team, learn about the town and more as it can change the financial side for you.

There are a lot of life lessons. I don’t like people to throw out the stigma that just because you didn't make the NBA, you failed. There's some people in the NBA that maybe shouldn’t be there, there are guys that shouldn’t be overseas that are and vice versa. It is all perspective and situation stuff. I am most likely going to retire after this season, season 14, most likely in South America. For me I am at the back end of my career but I am putting in that same kind of work as I did coming into my journey. There are so many ways to look at it without looking down upon it. I know so many guys that can GO, but after 3 seasons they’re ready to quit because they don’t want to only play for 3k for a bad team somewhere. They could have stayed optimistic and reflected on all of the work they have put in since a kid busting their behind to be better. Back to when you asked me about that first moment, I think about it alot. See how far you can get and if I drop this heavy ball, I have to start over. At this point of my career I can’t start over so why not try to finish it out or have the last say so in my career. Not too many guys can do or say that. 

What is “KCxperience”? 

I have my own LLC “KCxperience.” When I graduated college I went home and remember being around as a kid in the summer not being able to afford to go to a basketball camp, being able to only go to one and it might not have even been the one I thought was best. Besides that you just did your own thing, go to the rec center, hoop with your boys and go home. Even in that, not everyone's situation allowed them to do that consistently. I wanted to create a way to give back and inspire. I’ve done a few free clinics and as time progressed I’ve kept in touch with different kids to track their progress as far as education. If they did good I would reward that behavior to keep them going. It was something I had growing up but I didn't pay attention to how important it was. So many people fall off because people don’t feel they or their work is appreciated.

KCxperience started off as that but for years we ran camps yearly and from about 2016-2017 my best friend Tamera Young (WNBA Player) wanted to do a 3 on 3 competition. The concept fit both our brands and personal walks of life. I lost my father due to cancer when I was 16 and she had  recently lost her father to cancer prior to the 3 on 3 competition. As a give back to the community, all proceeds of the 3 on 3 tournament went to cancer research. In the second year of the 3 on 3, I organized a camp which was the biggest one yet with roughly 75 kids. It’s great to know I started something helpful. We have a few kids currently playing college basketball and two guys playing professionally overseas. I know for a fact they never would have thought of playing overseas if they hadn’t met me and come across the KCxperience brand.

KCxperience may be my brand but it is honestly a people's brand. It should serve as inspiration..The campaign I am running right now with my merchandise is “More Love Less Hate.” Because my brand is basketball and sports based initially, I still know that basketball is a metaphor to life. Within the world and in the basketball industry it can be a little bit more love and less hate.

I see on your Instagram page #KCShotit, are you into photography as well? 

It’s another passion that I have found along the way. I like to capture moments and know the feeling of having them captured of me as well. So instead of always taking camera phone photos and losing them once I upgraded my device…I decided to pick up a professional camera.  I’ve been slightly hesitant to fully show my photography skills because I know it takes a lot of work to put into it. I don’t want to disrespect the craft. But soon I will put my work on display and get more into it.  For now, I will keep taking pics after my workouts or practice while icing my knees and ankles on the sidelines.

Is there any special thanks you would like to give for helping throughout your journey? 

For sure I want to thank my mom, that is a no brainer for me. She made a way for me to be able to play some weekends when I know she probably couldn’t afford to. Forever thankful for that. Thanks to all the coaches that gave me a chance to play for them. A special thanks to Phil Handy for introducing me to pro life with his workouts. I thought I was prepared until I met him and had to really figure it out.  Also, thanks to John “Skipp” Hawthorne, that’s my guy. I think I met him at the perfect time of my playing career. He literally has spent countless hours in the gym with me to keep my game sharp the past six years.  Lastly, a huge thank you to the game of basketball. I can’t imagine my life without it. In fact, this interview wouldn’t be happening if I never picked up a ball. 

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