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Flushing basketballer remembered on birthday

Wearing a T-shirt with a photograph of...

By Tien-Shun Lee

Family and friends of Lance “B-Nee” Clark gathered for a special barbecue in Flushing Saturday to remember the inspirational basketball player who died four months ago of a cancerous tumor at the base of his brain.

Wearing a T-shirt with a photograph of her son, who would have turned 27 on Friday, Wendy Clark said the barbecue was a kick-off for the Lance Clark Foundation, an organization she plans on starting which will focus on giving educational job training for young people coming from prison.

“A lot of his peers have been incarcerated,” said Wendy Clark, who prefers to refer to her late son in the present tense. “The system perpetuates them going back (to jail). We want to help them by giving them viable job training.”

Clark, whom friends and family called “B-Nee” because his head was shaped like a bean, died on March 23 in the Comfort Care Hospice Unit at the Margaret Tietz Center for Nursing Care in Jamaica after undergoing 10 brain surgeries over a period of six years.

Just before his death in the hospice, Clark was awarded his bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of New Haven. The degree had been withheld from him at his 1999 commencement ceremony because the university miscalculated the number of credits he had earned, telling him that he was two credits shy of earning his degree when he had actually exceeded graduation requirements by one credit.

In between dancing to hip-hop music and dining on barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs, friends and family of Clark who grew up with him on Colden Street in Flushing remembered him as the “good kid” who stayed out of trouble while others dropped out of school and got girls pregnant.

“He always stood out of the crowd. He was like the good guy, but he was still family,” said Thomas Santiago, 30, who met Clark when he was 6 years old and remained close friends with him until his death, visiting him frequently in the hospital.

“He inspires you. He went through so much and he always pushed himself to do more,” Santiago said. “He never gave up. He would try to walk with a walker to the living room when he could have been pushed in a wheelchair.”

Clark’s cousin, Kwasimodoe Berry, 28, recalled playing basketball with Clark when it was warm out and playing “NBA Live” Nintendo basketball with Clark during winters.

“Every single basketball court in Flushing knew us,” Berry said. “It doesn’t feel the same now. It feels like I’m playing with one arm.”

Clark is survived by his mother and 16-year-old sister, Ashley, who said she missed hanging out in the house with him, playing video games and eating his favorite foods — French toast, pizza and oatmeal raisin cookies.

“Right now we’re trying to deal with his passions — his friends and basketball,” Wendy Clark said. “We’re working on having a basketball court named after him and starting the Lance Clark foundation.”

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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