A Change of Guard

Graduating Stinger Ashley Clarke Leaves Team with Big Shoes to Fill

Stingers point guard Ashley Clarke has one last postseason to get the Concordia women’s basketball team to nationals Photo Ion Etxebarria

The end of the Stingers women’s basketball team’s season will be a bittersweet moment for graduating guard Ashley Clarke, bringing a decorated three-year career with the team to an end on one hand and marking the first step towards hopefully bigger and better things on another.

But from the team’s perspective, there’s nothing sweet about it—Clarke’s graduation will leave the team with a big hole at the point guard position heading into next season.

As for Clarke, the realization she won’t be returning to the team next season hasn’t sunk in just yet.

“Once playoffs are over, maybe that’s when it’s gonna click,” she said after her last regular season game in the Maroon and Gold.

“It’s going to be a life-changer.”

Before Saturday’s game the Stingers honoured Clarke, who’s in her third season with the team after playing a year for Ryerson University in Toronto.

Clarke made a name for herself with ankle-breaking ball handling skills and making clutch shots week after week.

Perhaps no game was more memorable than the one versus the University of Windsor Lancers, ranked no. 1 overall in the Collegiate Interuniversity Sport, during the Concordia-
Reebok Tournament last year. Clarke provided the game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left in overtime to give the Stingers a 75-74 victory.

“That’s definitely one of my biggest moments,” said Clarke. “I’ll never forget it.”

“It was a huge shot,” added Stingers head coach Keith Pruden. “It was an NBA three.”

Clarke averaged 5.5 points a game and shot 23 per cent from the field this season—one she admits didn’t meet her expectations.

“I thought this would be my best year,” Clarke said. “I wanted to show the league that I can prove myself.

“But I had a lack of confidence midway through the season,” she continued.

“I didn’t have a good offensive game, and then I just stopped trying to produce offensively and just tried to do other things. ”

With her less-than-perfect regular season behind her, Clarke is focusing all her energy on the postseason, as she aims to take the Stingers to a provincial championship for the first time since the 1998-1999 season.

“[In] past years we’ve lost in the finals, and we don’t want to repeat that this year,” Clarke said.

“Hopefully I can go out with a bang and at least go to nationals. We’re that good of a team. We’re ranked. We should be getting out of here and going to nationals, playing higher-ranked teams.”

When the winter semester ends, Clarke says she’ll be taking summer classes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and will either be looking to pursue graduate studies in taxation or enter the chartered professional accountancy, which is offered at the John Molson School of Business.

While a world of finance awaits her, the only numbers that Clarke currently has on her mind are those of the teammates she’s bonded with since joining the Concordia basketball team.

“I spend more time with [my teammates] than with my own family,” Clarke said.

“Basketball got me away from all my stress, now I’m going to have to find another stress-reliever.”

Making matters worse for the Stingers, Clarke isn’t the only guard leaving the team—fourth-year shooting guard Alex Boudreau is also graduating at the end of the year.

Pruden will certainly miss having both Clarke and Boudreau as guards next season, but acknowledges that the two will have to be replaced.

“The sad undertone of university sports is that nobody’s irreplaceable,” he said. “Teams are always in the process of replacing people.

“We’re not going to have another Ashley and Alex,” he continued.

“My job is to go out and find somebody different. The two of them have contributed so much to the program, this year especially, and of course I’ll miss them. I’m not sure they’ll miss me, but I’ll miss them.”