STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
There is no harder thing in sports than to sit on the sidelines after an injury. It is even more heart wrenching when the team goes on to become one of the best teams in the conference.
For Kyndal Clark, it was a deflating feeling to be on the sidelines and not out on the court with her teammates after a knee injury robbed Clark of her senior season after just one game.
The 2014-2015 season was supposed to be a defining capstone to an impressive career for Clark. She was the reigning Jackie Stiles Award winner, as the best player in the Missouri Valley Conference, and also led all of NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball her junior year in three-pointers made per game.
Averaging 19.3 points per game last season, Clark was expected to be a catalyst for a team that had aspirations of a conference title. But after scoring 17 points in an opening night loss to South Dakota, she went down with a knee injury and was forced to sit out for the rest of the season.
Even with the severity of the injury Clark never got down on herself as a result, encouraging her teammates from the sideline and aiding the Bulldogs this season whenever and wherever she could.
“God has always taken care of me and shown me that everything happens for a reason, so I knew I had nothing to worry about,” Clark said.
Throughout the season Clark was seen on the Drake bench, usually near the coaching staff helping out with recognizing patterns, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where her specialties as a player lie.
“My role varied between games depending on what the coaches needed, but the majority of the time I watched out on offense and analyzed what was and wasn’t working,” Clark said.
During this time she continued her rehab and jumped ahead of schedule in her recovery, something that could make an impact for the Bulldogs who are hoping for her to get back to peak physical condition.
Part of this hope is that it will allow Clark to play next season in her old uniform. The prospect of Clark donning her old uniform, like her recovery, looks very promising.
“Recovery is going well. I can start running in June, and then may be released for full contact in August or September,” Clark said.
When she isn’t working with the team or rehabbing her knee, Clark has been a catalyst for the Bulldogs’ Community Outreach program in the athletics department.
The Women’s Basketball team set a goal of 1,000 hours of community service and surpassed it this season, much of that coming as a result of Clark’s efforts. Clark was named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Allstate Good Works Team for her efforts off-the-court and got to travel to the Final Four this year to be recognized.
Regardless of whether or not Clark will return next year, her Drake career is nearing its end. Still, she has more than a few fond memories of this small school in Des Moines. She has learned a lot, but it has been the journey that inspired her the most.
“What comes to mind is not what I have learned, but the reminders of things that I have always known,” Clark said. “My mom has always told me that the journey is the reward, meaning (that I should) celebrate all of the trials and triumphs in life because they help you learn, grow and steer you through life … and they are meant to be embraced.”
Clark may continue to work in basketball, but not necessarily as a coach or player. She may pursue another career, such as working with and supporting retired athletes, as well as encouraging and teaching to others pursuing the game she loves.