COVINGTON, Ga. — Tre Clark has been going off over the last several weeks.
During that time, he’s averaged close to 30 points per game, including a 32-point explosion Saturday night that helped No. 6 Newton overcome a sluggish first half against Eastside en route to a 74-65 win over county rival Eastside.
What’s come along with his progress is increased recruiting attention and heightened exposure — all of which could tempt a young athlete to hold off on making any lasting college commitments until that big, dream Power Five school comes calling.
And while Clark admits that that temptation was there, he also showed the ability to be stronger than temptation when it came to making a decision that was solid for his basketball future — not to mention his education.
That’s why, less than 24 hours after that offensive explosion against Eastside — he scored 25 of those 32 points in the second half — Clark informed the Twitter world that he had committed to Virginia Commonwealth University Sunday evening.
Clark, whose averaging 20 points, 5.4 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game, chose VCU over several schools including Clayton State and Canisus, just as some Power Fives such as Virginia began to take notice. But for Clark, the allure of the big time school commitment took a back seat to just achieving the right fit.
“I went for an unofficial visit up there last week, and my time up there was real good,” Clark said. “They treated me like family, and it was a perfect fit from their play style to the way I play. The team’s style really made me feel like it was the right place for me.”
Clark has displayed dynamic versatility in his game this season as he’s become arguably Newton’s most explosive scorer. In tandem, he, 6-foot-7 power forward Armani Harris (20 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.4 blocks per game) and 6-foot sharp-shooting guard Tyrease Brown (15 ppg, 43 percent shooting from 3-point range) have become one of the most potent three-man hoops tandems in the state.
He’s showcased the ability to slash to the hole, create his own shots and consistently bury the 3-pointer. He nailed six 3s against Eastside and four Friday night at Archer. But at 6-foot-3, he’s also gotten noticeably bigger and more explosive, allowing him to add an above-the-rim element to his game.
All of this made the VCU-Clark attraction a mutual one.
“I feel like the team’s style is fast and up-tempo, and that’s the way I like to play,” Clark said. “The way I play with me loving to score in transition and play fast just made it perfect.”
Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen expressed his joy in Clark's decision.
"We are very excited for Tre and his family," Rasmussen said. "Tre had a great visit there last week and just felt like the timing was right."
VCU is a Division I school located in Richmond, Virginia that competes in the Atlantic 10 conference and has seen success in the NCAA Tournament in recent years, including seven straight trips to the Big Dance -- one of those a Final Four appearance back in 2011 when Shaka Smart was coaching and the Rams were considered a NCAA Tournament Cinderella.
Rasmussen said VCU's reputation had a lot to do with Clark feeling right about his choice, even as his recruiting attention has seen a sharp uptick.
"VCU has a great basketball tradition, and Tre feels like it is a great fit for him, and he just didn't want to lose the opportunity," Rasmussen added. "He has been on a tear for us the last two weeks, and he has matured and improved so much, especially as a leader."
Clark acknowledged that the phone calls and other forms of communication with other schools have increased drastically, and it piqued his curiosity and increased the “what if” factor. But ultimately he considered the VCU offer one that was too good to pass up on.
“That was a concern to me for a minute, thinking I may miss out on something else,” he said. “But everything about (VCU) was right. I just decided that since it fit me so well, why not just make the decision instead of waiting.”
Clark said the academic opportunities suited him well also. His grade point average at Newton hovers around a 3.1, and he said he plans to major in sports management.
But for now, he’s not trying to get too far into thinking about the future when his Newton squad is in the midst of making another run at a Region 8-AAAAAAA championship, accompanied by another deep state tournament run.
In fact, Clark said the decision takes much pressure off of him.
“The recruiting process was a bit of a struggle for me in the beginning, just because I felt like I wasn’t getting the looks I deserved,” Clark said. “But my parents and my coaches told me to trust the process. And from there, I just relaxed and let things come to me.”
Clark says the support from his family has been priceless this season — one that Clark said he knew would be a breakout campaign for him. That’s the reason why he’ll readily admit that he’s the mastermind behind the large cardboard cutouts of his face that several members of his family have been seen waving around during games after each big play the senior guard makes.
“Honestly it was my idea,” Clark said with a laugh. “I thought before the season that I knew I was going to have a breakout year, so I just wanted to do something where me and my family could have fun with it.”
Part of the fun for Clark and company is the fact that Newton (14-3, 3-1) sits at No. 6 in Class AAAAAAA and second behind No. 2 Grayson in the region standings with a Tuesday matchup with the Rams from Gwinnett County that could shake things up a bit.
It's games like these Clark says he can now hone in on more specifically as Newton enters the home stretch of the regular season with just eight games remaining.
"It's actually good to have made this decision now," he said. "Now I won't have to worry about that at all. I can just focus on my team and what we're trying to accomplish and the goals we're trying to meet."