July 3, 2023
Why Alysha Clark’s versatility has allowed her to fit right in on the Aces
Despite only playing 16 games with the Aces, Alysha Clark has fit like a glove so far.
LAS VEGAS — When most players join a new team, there is usually a learning curve when it comes to on-court play and team chemistry. Players may take some time to mesh with their new teammates and find their groove in their new offense.
However, that hasn’t been the case for Alysha Clark. She has stepped right in and looked like she has been playing with the Aces for multiple years, despite the fact it has only been 16 games.
“I think just my adaptability as a player in this league that has kind of had to find my way, create a role,” Clark told The Next. “You know, I’ve just had to be adaptable because every team, honestly every year my role has changed outside of like the defensive leader part of it. I think that’s been the main consistent part that I’ve been able to carry throughout my career…so I think learning then like how can I fit in and create a spot within this already amazing group. I think I’ve kind of taken that along with me throughout my career and I think that’s what helps me be able to fit in.”
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Clark came over to Las Vegas this past offseason after spending two seasons in Washington with the Mystics and nine in Seattle. She missed her first season in D.C. after suffering a foot injury and didn’t feel like her regular self on the court until last years playoffs. Going into free agency Clark was unsure if teams were still interested in her after back-to-back down seasons but she couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
As it turned out, Clark had many suitors in free agency and when it came time for her to choose, she was drawn to Las Vegas for multiple reasons. She felt like the Aces wanted and valued what she brought to the court, even after the injury. She didn’t know how many more opportunities she had to win a championship and felt Las Vegas had a good chance of competing for one. Lastly, Clark had spent some of her childhood years in Las Vegas and so it felt like a full circle moment.
“She’s just so equipped and prepared night in and night out to do her job, to the best of her ability,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “Like the effort and like the try hard factor. There was a play last night, she shot a corner three in that corner. She missed but she was the first one back in transition defense and basically saved us a layup right before the end of the quarter. So it’s those little hustle plays that doesn’t ever really show up on the stat sheet except for it does show up on a stat sheet with a W.”
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Since arriving in Las Vegas, Clark has come in and looked like she has played with the Aces for a long time even though it’s only been a handful of games. Despite coming off the bench for the first time since 2013, Clark hasn’t waned from brining her patented defense and three-point shooting that has made her one of the best two-way players in the league.
In her time in Las Vegas so far, Clark has had the assignment of guarding the likes of Breanna Stewart, DeWanna Bonner, Rebecca Allen and Kahleah Copper. With her size and strength, she has great versatility for the Aces on the defensive end. She can guard bigger post players with her strength and can guard quicker guards with her size and speed. The options she gives the Aces on defense has been an incredible asset.
“She’s a huge piece for us on the court,” Aces assistant coach Tyler Marsh said. “The level of versatility that she gives us on both ends. She’s gives us an ability to play big or play small depending on how we want to go with the lineups. She’s able to stretch the floor and she’s able to guard the other teams best player. She can guard one through four, at times she can guard the five…off the court, I can’t say enough about Alysha. It’s kinda contagious how she talks on the defensive end when she’s not in the game.”
Clark not only has flexibility on the defensive end but she can score in a variety of ways as well. She has an incredibly quick shooting stroke and can knock down threes even when she doesn’t receive the best of passes. She is well known for her outside shooting, where she is a career 38% three point shooter, but she can do more than just that. The Aces have really used Clark’s size as a guard to post her up on smaller guards around the basket. She has gotten a lot of layups in the paint this year with either hand. Hammon feels like Clark might be ambidextrous with how well the righty finishes with her left.
With the success that Clark has had on offense, most wouldn’t realize she went to college as a post player. Clark started her college career at Belmont but transferred to Middle Tennessee State after her sophomore year. Back then, the NCAA didn’t have the one-time transfer rule, so Clark had to sit out a year. It was during this year she sat out that Clark changed her game to add an outside game and had to completely relearn the game of basketball.
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“I basically had to like learn basketball all over again,” said Clark. “Coming into the league I was, it was almost like, I was in peewee basketball, you know, back in the day just learning the game all over again because it’s so different being on the perimeter. And so it started…that transfer year was the year that I spent, like learning how to shoot, you know, like, Okay, what is how do you how do you shoot, like, what does that look like working on form? And then just kind of carrying that out knowing that once I got to this level, I was going to have to be able to do that.”
It took Clark time once she first got to the league to find her role. She was drafted by San Antonio in 2010, where she played with now Aces head coach, Becky Hammon, and even had dinner at Hammon’s house during training camp. However, she was cut and went overseas. She was signed by Seattle in 2012 and battled through her first few seasons. Early in her career, opposing teams weren’t even guarding Clark on the perimeter and she felt like her team was playing four on five.
Clark grew and by 2016 was a full-time starter for Seattle. It was throughout these first few years where Clark grew and molded her game into who she is today. She learned what her role was and accepted it. It took being cut, to barely playing, to becoming a starter to give Clark the mindset she has today to always stay ready.
“I think that’s just credit to her as a veteran is to like adapt to her role,” Cayla George told The Next. “I think that’s like anyone that’s coming into a new team and with the resume that she has in the league, you know, credit to her because she probably started most teams in the league, if not all of them. And she’s coming here and playing her role perfectly coming off the bench and bringing us energy and, you know, defensively in particular, you know, in that sense, she comes in and gives us a real steady defensive energy and she’s really smart. She talks, she’s super vocal especially at halftime she sees the game so well her IQ so high. So, I just think she’s been a really big asset for this group.”
It’s not only Clark’s versatility and adaptability but her personality that has allowed her to fit in so seamlessly with the Aces. When she was deciding on where to move to this past offseason, many of the Aces players reached out to Clark and told her they wanted her in Vegas. Her mentality and personality have meshed so well with the Aces group. She wants to make others better and is a genuine person who always shines bright.
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“I think she’s just really genuine and cares for people,” George said of her teammate. “And she’s got a massive bright line that she shines. I think that she just really respects and, and wants to, like I said before, serve people around her, which I think is key to success on and off the court, you want to be around people that really, you know, hype you up and a happy for your successes. I think that she’s a beautiful human and everyone can do with a bit of an Alysha Clark on their team or in their life.”
Even with her new role, Clark is still a veteran in the WNBA and knows she has a lot of wisdom she can pass down to her new teammates. She knew coming in the Aces weren’t known as a defensive juggernaut and so she has tried to impart as much wisdom on that side of the floor to her teammates. She has a big belief that Jackie Young can be a phenomenal two-way player and she has really focused on helping Young develop as a defensive stopper. Not only has Clark been imparting her wisdom on others but also getting support from her teammates.
“They’ve given me confidence in areas I don’t normally have,” Clark said. “If I pass up a shot that normally I’m like ‘Oh no’ they’re all like ‘Uh’. That’s something that’s really special because it’s like, I want to continue to get better every year that I’m in this league, every year that I play, and to have a team that like gives you confidence in that space in those areas where I may feel uncomfortable. It’s really special and it feels good.”
It has been Clark’s versatility and adaptability that have made her fit like a glove for the Aces so far this season. She would probably be able to fit on any roster in the WNBA but her defensive presence and leadership have made her even more valuable in Las Vegas. She doesn’t know how much longer she has left in her career, and she wants to compete for championships as long as she’s still playing. Vegas is the place that checked the most boxes for her and the Aces are thankful she chose them every single day.
“They’re a great team, you know, the young superstars in their prime, and that’s exciting,” Clark said. “You know, it’s like I want to compete for championships till I hang them up. And this was the place that I felt like I could do that as well as be healthy and happy internally. And that that really mattered to me at this stage of my career… just like their joy that they come in here every day with Yeah, they’re here to work and compete, but they’re just happy, hilarious, funny, enjoy the process people and I love that.”
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Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.