Wes Clark is no longer a member of the Missouri men’s basketball team.
Clark, a junior point guard from Detroit, was dismissed Tuesday before the Tigers played South Carolina at Mizzou Arena. According to a release, Clark repeatedly failed to live up to the Missouri athletic department’s academic expectations. A source told The Star that team and university officials met with Clark during the last several seasons, admonishing him to improve his class attendance and grades, which did not improve.
The decision to dismiss Clark was made by the Mizzou athletic department, but second-year coach Kim Anderson didn’t contest Clark’s dismissal, according to a source.
“The statement that we put out speaks for itself,” Anderson said. “From a personal standpoint, I’d like to wish Wes the best. We’re going to move on as a program. I appreciate everything he did. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
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When a reporter tried to ask senior forward Ryan Rosburg if the Clark situation was a distraction, Anderson quickly interjected, “There will be no discussions about Wes Clark.”
Freshman guard Cullen VanLeer started in Clark’s place Tuesday.
Clark retains his final year of NCAA eligibility. Minutes after the MU basketball team announced Clark’s dismissal, Clark posted “Never dismissed FYI” on his Twitter account.
Clark, who graduated from Romulus High School, was a Rivals four-star recruit during his prep career. He was ranked No. 72 nationally and No. 14 among point guards in the 2013 class. He signed with Missouri before Frank Haith’s final season.
This season, Clark averaged 9.8 points per game, starting all 25 games entering Tuesday. He was the Tigers’ second-leading scorer and also ranked second on the team with 74 assists and 23 steals.
Clark was the team’s second-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game last season and finished with a team-high 38 steals despite playing only 23 games. He was suspended for one game last season and missed the final eight after suffering a dislocated elbow at South Carolina. Before he was injured, Clark averaged 11.7 points during conference play, which led Missouri.
Earlier this season, Anderson made pointed remarks about players needing to get in the gym more and play video games less.
“If you’re sincere about being a good basketball player, when you don’t do well or your team doesn’t do well, you should come into the gym and try to get better,” Anderson said during a Feb. 1 news conference. “If you want to blame somebody else and say, ‘Well, it ain’t me,’ then you stay home and point fingers and play Xbox and watch TV or whatever it is you do.”
Clark’s name was never among those mentioned by Anderson nor teammates when discussing players who were putting in extra time in the gym.
In the short term, Clark’s dismissal solves a scholarship problem for Mizzou, which was over-signed by one player for the 2016-17 season. The Tigers had one unused scholarship this season and Martavian Payne signed a scholarship but never played for the team.
With Rosburg’s graduation, Missouri had three open scholarships for next season. Three players — Willie Jackson, Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith — signed with the Tigers in November, but the addition of Texas transfer Jordan Barnett at semester created a surplus again.
Missouri’s roster makeover may not be finished either. The staff continues to recruit possible additions for next season and must forfeit one scholarship during the next two seasons as a result of self-imposed sanctions announced in January.
Clark’s dismissal creates a potential issue with respect to academic progress rate, the NCAA’s tool for monitoring graduation rates among all programs. The Tigers’ four-year average last May, which included figures through the 2013-14 season, was 941. That’s above the 930 threshold that triggers penalties.
The 2013-14 score was 851. That left Anderson’s program with a three-year average of 929.7. Missouri must be significantly above 930 in the coming years or face a possible postseason ban. Clark’s impact on the Tigers’ APR won’t be calculated until next spring, when the 2015-16 numbers are released.