Departing Hawks: Baker, Clarke leave HartfordMarch 26th, 2012 by Sam Perkins
(West Hartford, Conn.) — Forward Ryan Baker and wing Dustin Clarke will not be returning to the University of Hartford next season, according to Hawks head coach John Gallagher.
“They are both phenomenal young men and we wish them all the best. They are great kids and there is zero animosity,” said Gallagher.
Baker, a 6’5” junior, was recruited by former head coach Dan Leibovitz. In 69 career games over three seasons in a Hawks uniform, Baker averaged 1.9 points in 7.6 minutes per game.
Despite solid athleticism, Baker was buried on the Hawks depth-chart for the entire season and was on the outside looking in on the Hawks rotation moving forward. According to Gallagher, the native of Cypress, Texas, is graduating early and will be enrolling in a graduate school close to home.
Clarke, a 6’3” freshman, saw action in only 10 games, averaging just 3.4 minutes, and did not score a single point, but was arguably the most athletic player in the program. Despite his lack of playing time, the coaching staff – at least for a time – viewed Clarke as the Harford freshman with the highest ceiling; high praise considering the Hawks seven-man freshman class included All-Rookie selections Mark Nwakamma and Nate Sikma, as well as starting guard Yolonzo Moore,
At 175 pounds (and that listing might be a bit generous), Clarke needed to develop significant strength and was no where near ready to compete at the division I level and seemed like the ideal candidate for a red-shirt — which was the original plan of the coaching staff (he did not play in the first 10 games of the season). However, according to several sources, Clarke did not agree with that plan.
Gallagher cited homesickness for Clarke’s departure, and indicated that he will be transferring closer to his home town of Newland, North Carolina. However, the writing appeared to be on the wall that Clarke just didn’t “get it,” as evidenced by his unwillingness to red-shirt and save an otherwise wasted season.
Hartford has one signee for next season in Antoine Burrell, a 6’7” 200 pound forward from Texas who attended The Colony High School. Burrell is billed as an athletic late-bloomer who needs to put on strength but who plays well above the rim. Burrell rose nearly 30 spots in the Texas recruiting rankings, cracking the top-50 late in the summer.
With the departures of Baker and Clarke, and four graduating seniors in Andres Torres, Genesis Maciel, Clayton Brothers and Charles White, the Hawks still have five available scholarships for next season. The scuttlebutt is that they are targeting a point guard, at least one athletic wing, and a true big with size.
Gallagher, reached by phone, is already out pounding the pavement (and back roads) of the recruiting trail, and is enthusiastic about the prospects of the 2012-2013 season following an all-blood-guts-and-heart stretch run that ended with a double-overtime loss to eventual conference champion Vermont.
“I can wait, we’re in a phenomenal position, and I’m just so excited to get back in the gym with these kids and keep this [program] moving.”
The Hawks return six freshmen who all saw action in the rotation in Nwakamma, Sikma, Moore, 6’9″ forward Jamie Schneck, 6’1″ gunner Wes Cole and 6’2″ defensive-bruiser Corban Wroe. Gallagher also has high-hopes for 6’6″ 260 pound sophomore Oren Faulk.
“I think next season he could really turn the corner and be something special for us,” said Gallagher of his reserve center. Faulk saw sporadic minutes with inconsistent effort being cited for his inconsistent playing time, but has shown serious flashes in practice, and may be the most athletic front court player on the roster.