INDIANAPOLIS (BVM) – For Kate Clarke, basketball has always been at the forefront. Whether facing adversity on or off the court in her life, she has continued to excel in the sport, and it has prepared her for a Division I college basketball future with the Michigan Wolverines.
— Kate (@kateclarkee) October 28, 2020
Beginning already in eighth grade, Clarke’s recruiting process was admittedly a bit much at times for such a young athlete. The four-star and No. 99-ranked recruit in the 2022 class had plenty of interest, with much of it coming from Big Ten schools. When it came down to it, Michigan set itself apart from the rest for the 6-foot guard thanks to what they offer both on and off the court.
“The recruiting process was pretty overwhelming,” Clarke said. “I had a lot of Big Ten schools recruiting me. What drew me to Michigan was the staff and team. For me, coaching and the girls were the biggest factors in deciding where I wanted to go. Also, Michigan’s academics are unmatched.”
While Clarke has a bright future with the Wolverines, it’s her past that has made it possible. Although Clarke also tried out gymnastics and swimming when she was young, basketball was always her favorite sport.
Her mom, Jane, played basketball in high school, but otherwise, her family has never had much of a background in the sport. As a result, Kate’s interest in basketball was primarily self-driven.
“I think my own interest led me to basketball since it wasn’t really a huge deal in my household growing up,” Kate explained “My mom played in high school but was not serious about it, and my dad swam in college so that was a big deal in our house.”
Through the years, Kate has become a talented guard and lethal shooter. She began playing AAU basketball around fourth grade, and excelled at Creekside Middle School growing up. However, just as she was finding her way on the basketball court, heartbreak struck.
When Kate was just 11 years old, her father, Chris, passed away. Being close with him and part of a tight-knit family in general, it was a tough time to get through for the basketball star.
“We were extremely close and I loved tagging along with him in whatever he was doing,” Kate said. “He was a swimmer, so he was never really good at basketball, but he thought he was. We would play ‘H.O.R.S.E.’ in the driveway which really only consisted of him chucking up shots while shouting, ‘in.’”
With her father’s passing, Kate and her family got even closer.
“At the time he passed, my family really got close,” she added. “We learned how to be strong in ways that my family wasn’t used to at the time, especially being a family of athletes.”
Part of that stems from the relationship that Kate has built since with her mom. Jane has always been there for the young athlete, but over the last few years, she has turned into a true role model for Kate.
“My mom has done everything for me since I was born,” Kate said. “After my dad passed is when I really realized all that she does. From taking me to practices to keeping up the house, she really does it all. She is without a doubt the person I look up to the most.”
However, Kate has certainly never forgotten about her father. She thinks about him daily, and continues to honor his legacy through the hard work she puts in to be the best player and person she can be.
“There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not reminded of him,” Kate mentioned. “Hard work is what I think of when I think about my dad, so when I’m playing, or training, my work ethic is something that keeps his legacy alive.”
Throughout her brilliant career at Carmel High School, Kate has done just that. As a freshman, she began playing varsity right off the bat. Between both her freshman and sophomore seasons, Kate gained learning experiences to set the foundation for the remainder of her high school career.
After averaging 16.9 points per game as a sophomore, Kate became even more motivated to take the Greyhounds to the top as a junior, proving so by scoring over 18 points and grabbing 3.2 rebounds per contest as a third team all-state player.
“My junior season, I really learned how to motivate myself,” Kate said. “That really propelled me to become a better player.”
Coming off another tremendous season, things changed the following summer as Kate began feeling discomfort in her back. There wasn’t one specific instance she can point back to of when the injury occurred. However, what was eventually deemed a disc injury in the lower back sidelined Kate for quite some time, and led her to miss the early portion of her senior season at Carmel.
“We really don’t know how it happened, but finding out that I would have to miss half of my senior year was not fun,” Kate said. “Initially, I had no idea why my back was hurting. Disc injuries are tricky so it is something that will have to be managed.”
Having to sit out was tough for such a fierce competitor. Even when she came back, there was still a sense of nervousness and uncertainty on how her back would hold up.
“I think the worst part was the uncertainty,” Kate noted. “While coming back, there would be times where my back wasn’t 100% and I would have to be set back for a little which is mentally draining.”
Still, that initial return to the court for the Greyhounds, as well as just being able to finish out her Carmel career on a high note, was very rewarding for the senior guard.
“It was like a breath of fresh air,” Kate said. “Watching people play can be hard while you’re sitting on the sidelines, so finally being able to represent Carmel and contribute to the team again felt good … Overall, I am grateful that I got to finish out my senior season.”
In her return to the court, Kate averaged 11.7 points, scoring 18 or more in six of Carmel’s final seven contests. One of her biggest season highlights came in January, when she became a 1,000-point scorer for the Greyhounds.
— Carmel Women’s Basketball (@CHS_Womensbball) January 8, 2022
“It felt great,” Kate said. “I earned every single point and I think it made me realize how much I had done to get to that point.”
Although the Greyhounds would lose in sectionals, Kate knows the leadership and work ethic she displayed while getting back on the court in her senior season will stick with the Carmel girls basketball program for quite some time.
It is those qualities in addition to her tremendous skill on the court that led Kate to still be named an Indiana All-Star for the second consecutive year this spring despite the abbreviated season. As a member of the prestigious squad, Kate has had the opportunity to represent Indiana in its battle against the Kentucky All-Stars this month.
“I actually found out while driving to an antique store over the phone,” Kate said. “Being named an Indiana All-Star was definitely on my list of things I wanted to accomplish, so to get that call was really cool. I can’t wait to represent Indiana and it is so cool to be playing with the best in Indiana.”
Soon, Kate will head north to play with some of the best the state of Michigan has to offer at the collegiate level. In doing so, she will be following in the footsteps of former Carmel High School and Michigan women’s basketball player, Amy Dilk.
She will also head to Ann Arbor alongside one of her friends and former teammates, Alyssa Crockett. A star forward over the last several years at nearby Westfield High School, Crockett grew up playing AAU basketball with Kate, and the two reunited years later playing with Indiana Elite. Now, they will share the court together again at Michigan as they look to continue the Wolverines’ recent success.
“Alyssa and I started playing on our very first AAU team together, which is pretty funny actually,” Kate said. “So I’ve known Alyssa since third or fourth grade. After that first AAU team, we didn’t play on the same team until our last AAU season with Indiana Elite. We definitely didn’t plan on going to the same college, it just happened organically.”
Despite all the ups and downs, Kate has put herself in position for a very bright future. Within basketball, that could eventually be playing professionally, or even becoming a trainer down the road. But right now, the future consists of making an impact at Michigan, and doing whatever it takes to put the Wolverines at the top.
“I want to contribute to the team as much as I can and hope to accomplish a championship while at Michigan,” Clarke concluded. “I think my class provides size and shooting which is something that can definitely aid in future success.”