SALT LAKE CITY — During the months of May and June, the Utah Jazz brought in 70 players for pre-draft workouts at the Zions Bank Basketball Center. None of those players happened to be Ian Clark, a 6-foot-3 guard from Belmont University who visited nine other NBA teams for workouts.
Yet Clark was the guy in the purple shirt and striped tie being introduced Monday afternoon as the latest Utah player. Clark was offered — and signed — a contract thanks in large part to his outstanding performances in summer league games in Orlando and Las Vegas.
Clark called it “a dream come true’’ to be signed by the Jazz and said when he got the news, “I was overwhelmed. ... I was excited.’’ He said he had other teams interested in him after his play in the summer leagues, but chose Utah for the “opportunity” the Jazz offered him.
Monday was Clark’s second visit to Salt Lake City, his first being in March when his Belmont team came to EnergySolutions Arena to play Arizona. Clark played well in that game, scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, but his team lost 81-64.
While playing for Belmont, Clark became the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,920 points and was an all-conference selection four times. He was the Ohio Valley Conference Co-Player of the Year as a senior.
Despite his outstanding collegiate career, Clark wasn’t waiting by the phone on draft night.
“I wasn’t really expecting to be drafted and I knew my time would be in summer league to come in and play well,’’ the 22-year-old Clark said. “I feel pretty confident and with the opportunity I have in front of me, I just need to take advantage of it.’’
Clark was named the NBA Summer League Championship MVP in Las Vegas after scoring 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range in Golden State’s 91-77 victory over Phoenix. He was also named to the all-summer league second team in Orlando, playing for Miami.
“I can’t put a finger on why I was overlooked, but I’ve definitely made a lot of improvement the last few months,'' he said.
He is known for his shooting — his 45.9 percent at Belmont was third in the nation — but he is also known for his defense as he was named the defensive player of the year in his conference.10 comments on this story
“That is something I definitely try to bring to the game,’’ he said. “You can’t play one side of the floor, especially in this league.’’
Clark calls himself a "combo guard" who is becoming more comfortable playing the point. He'll be the fifth guard on the team this year along with point guards Trey Burke and John Lucas III and shooting guards Alec Burks and Brandon Rush.
As per team policy, terms of the contract were not released by the Jazz, but a report in USA Today said it was a two-year deal with a team option for the second year.