Archie Clark was a 6-foot-2 guard and among the best basketball players in University of Minnesota history. He arrived on campus in the fall of 1962, joining Lou Hudson and Don Yates as the first black students to receive basketball scholarships from the Gophers.
Freshmen were ineligible for varsity competition, so it was the winter of 1963-64 before there was a modern feel to what college basketball had to offer inside Williams Arena.
What’s generally overlooked with Clark’s athletic career was that he was also the center fielder for Dick Siebert’s baseball team, including as a sophomore for the national championship team of 1964.
I talked to Clark a few days ago about his dual athletic career at Minnesota and he said: “I really wanted to be a baseball player. If I had hit the way I did as a kid, I would’ve played baseball. I was pretty darn good in high school, but I couldn’t find the same swing in college.
“I know the reason for that. I spent three years in the Army and only was able to play basketball. I didn’t swing a bat from my senior year in high school until I joined the Gophers 3 ½ years later.’’
Clark chuckled through his cell phone and said: “When people mention baseball to me, I say, ‘I was a four-tool player. I could steal bases, run down the ball in center, throw, hit with a little power, but I never had the consistency as a hitter. That made basketball the sport to pursue for me.’’
The pursuit turned out well. Clark played 11 seasons in the NBA, and was a two-time All-Star.
Clark turns 73 on July 15. He lives in his hometown of Ecorse, Mich., the father of eight children, with 12 grandchildren.
“I still look back with pride at that College World Series,’’ Clark said. “We were underdogs from the first game, against Texas A&M. There’s nothing better than winning like that.’’
Lou Hudson died in April, to Archie’s great sadness. “We came in together and were roommates,’’ Clark said. “I was three years older. To me, Lou was my little brother.’’
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Gophers basketball jerseys that need retirement:
Archie Clark, No. 21 (1963-66): He was a tremendous second wheel to Lou Hudson, then averaged 24.5 points per game as a senior when Hudson broke his shooting hand.
Willie Burton, No. 34 (1986-90): Clem Haskins’ first star and part of my all-time starting five for Gophers. Returned to U to get a degree, and a jersey ceremony is sure to follow.
Randy Breuer, No. 45 (1979-83): The 7-foot-2 Breuer has his name all over Gophers’ career lists. Every bit the college big man as was Kevin McHale.