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Former Newton star talks life in Overtime Elite in Atlanta
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TJ Clark (Overtime Elite League) - photo by Special Photo

ATLANTA — Recently, former Newton High School basketball star TJ Clark finished a season as a member of Overtime Elite League based in Atlanta. In his season, Clark averaged 16.4 points, four assists, seven rebounds and two steals per game. 

Clark’s team, Team OTE, finished second in the league, too. 

Clark recently discussed his experience this past season with The Covington News.

Q: How was your experience in this league? 

TC: It was more than I expected. My development and the knowledge I gained from being here, it was all way more than I expected. It was definitely great. 

Q: What did you like the most about playing in this league? 

TC: Really, playing against the best competition in the nation. Just being able to go against the best every day in practice and better myself. Iron sharpens iron. So, just being able to make gains and get 1% better every day. 

Q: How did this league help your development as a basketball player? 

TC: This league really helped me mature more as a man. To become a great basketball player, you’ve got to be a great man. Just being able to come up here and grow up has been the best. 

Q: Do you have a favorite moment from this past season? 

TC: The whole playoffs was a week to remember. It was game two with around 35 seconds left and I hit a shot to bring us down to just by two. The crowd went crazy and I couldn’t hear myself think. That was a crazy atmosphere and I’ve never been in an atmosphere like that. 

Q: In what ways do you think you can get even better as a basketball player? 

TC: Locking down on things you couldn’t really do during the season. In season, you have practice, school and meetings, so you don’t really focus on development, but more of the team concept. But, now that the season’s over, everyone is focusing more individually. What you need to work on and better on and little things like that. 

Q: In what ways did Newton High School prepare you for this league and its competition? 

TC: Being hard on me and never letting me slack. Coach [Charlemagne] Gibbons was definitely hard on me and kept us working. It was a really college format. When I got up here, there were a lot of things I was already familiar with. When [Gibbons] got there my 10th grade year, I learned a lot of new things. A lot of those things I was already learning, but now in more detail.

Q: Speaking of coach Gibbons, specifically…Are there any lessons he taught you at NHS that you still adhere to today? 

TC: There are so many…He really helped change my entire basketball career. I’m a whole different person than I was before I met coach Gibbons. When he first got there, he was always hard on playing hard and playing defense. He always said, ‘play every game like it’s your last.’ In my 11th grade year in the playoffs, I didn’t think that was going to be my last high school game. I gave it my all, but I didn’t even know. That’s something I always remembered. 

Q: Was there an adjustment period for you going from high school to the Overtime league?

TC: Most definitely. It’s definitely a whole different set of basketball. Then, the things you do outside of basketball with the financials, meetings and content, it was way more to do. In high school, you just hoop and go to school. Up here, you have more responsibilities you have to do. That’s why it matures you as a man and to do more. 

Q: How have you stayed connected to this past year’s NHS basketball? 

TC: I was so connected that it was almost like I was a part of the team. Those are still my brothers. That’s why I was at a lot of games this year. I still talk to them and coach Gibbons almost every day. It’s still a family bond and nothing’s changed for me leaving.

Q: What advice would you give someone who is considering joining Overtime Elite League?

TC: I would say, ‘you should go for it.’ It would be the best thing for you at this moment. The things you get exposed to is something  that you can only dream. I would definitely tell them to take it and live it to the fullest.

Q: Now that you’ve completed a season with the Overtime Elite League, what do you appreciate the most about the journey? 

TC: Really, just the grind. That’s what I fell in love with was the grind. Being able to come in every day and keep coming in a grinding. That’s what I fell in love with.