Clarke beats setback, returns to frontcourt

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Mairega Clarke didn’t know what to think two falls ago when he went to the doctor. The Holy Cross forward was told he had high blood pressure — a rather unusual affliction for a teenager. The diagnosis, Clarke said, only made it worse.

“Him telling me that kind of scared me,” he said. “Every time I went back I was always nervous and nervousness raises your blood pressure.”

Clarke’s issue was serious enough that doctors forbade him from not only playing basketball, but even practicing. He missed all of November 2010 and didn’t suit up until he was cleared around this time in 2011. When he got back, he was never himself — physically or mentally.

“It was tough,” Clarke said. “I wasn’t really confident in my game. When I was on the court, I was thinking about [it] so much. A lot was on my mind.”

Twelve months later with a change in his diet and some medication, Clarke is back to normal. And he’s made a significant impact for Holy Cross. The 6-foot-5 senior had 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in a 58-38 rout of Campus Magnet last Thursday night and 23 points and 12 rebounds three days earlier against Flushing.

“It’s completely under control now, he’s 100 percent healthy and he’s really been great for us,” Holy Cross Coach Paul Gilvary said.

With Marcus Hopper now playing at Siena, Clarke’s presence down low is vital — he’s really the only non-guard in the starting lineup. And without Marquise Moore, who has missed the last five games with a broken toe, production was needed in a big way. Clarke has been more than up to the task.

“I spent a lot of time in the gym during the summer,” Clarke said. “I just feel confident this year, like it’s my time.”

Holy Cross is 7-1 and a winner of seven straight games after falling to Cardinal Hayes in its season opener. The Knights head down to the Tony Rodi Basketball Classic in New Orleans this week having not played a league game yet. That will change Jan. 6 when they travel to rival Archbishop Molloy, which is always one of the bigger games on the schedule.

Clarke can enjoy it now. Not too long ago he was being diagnosed with high blood pressure and undergoing test after test. He went to a cardiologist and a specialist before finally getting cleared last December.

“Thankfully, the doctors found the problem and treated it before there was a tragedy,” Gilvary said.

All of that is in the rear-view mirror now.

“I’m just focused on basketball right now and school,” Clarke said. “That’s it.”

Posted 5:58 pm, January 4, 2012
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