In three seasons at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, 6'1" Guard James Paul (Bo) Clark has learned to live with pressure. As the leading scorer among the country's college players last season, he knows that whenever he takes the floor he will face defenses geared specifically to shackle him. Then there's fear of another major injury; he has already had three, one nearly fatal. And there is pressure of a different sort, one he could have avoided but which he handles with grace and good humor. Bo Clark, perhaps the finest shooting guard in college ball at any level, is the son of the Knights' head coach, Gene (Torchy) Clark.
Ah, the "coach's son." He's the kid who always gets to pitch in Little League, the one who plays quarterback because he and the head coach have the best rapport, the one who makes the basketball team even if he can't go to his left...or his right. And he faces extra pressure to excel; no matter how good he is, whenever he fails, people whisper, "He's only on the team because he's his daddy's boy."
Failure is something Bo Clark is unfamiliar with. His 31.6 points per game last season included 51 against Florida Institute of Technology and 44 against Flagler. In a game with Florida Memorial College in 1977 he scored 70 points. He is the Knights' alltime scoring leader with 2,211 points, and he has a chance to become the eighth player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points in his career. To get his 28-point career scoring average, he has taken nearly 30 shots a game, a third of his team's total. The potential for embarrassment in this statistic is not lost on him. "I'd really be in trouble if I were playing for my dad and taking 30 shots a game and we were losing," he says.
But there has been very little losing at Central Florida. In the 10 years since Torchy Clark initiated the basketball program at the school, which was once known as Florida Technological University, the Knights have gone 173-57 and have won three berths in the NCAA Division II tournament. During Bo's career the team has been 66-16, twice winning the Sunshine State Conference championship. In 1977-78, when Bo broke a bone in his right foot and was redshirted for the entire season, Central Florida won 24 in a row—its longest winning streak—and reached the final four.
"That team had a nice chemistry," says Torchy, "but I wouldn't want to be without Bo again. Bo is a Division I player in a Division II program."
It does appear that Clark is usually at his best when the competition is stiffest. In games against major-college opponents the past two seasons, Bo has a glittering 28.7 average, including a 31-point performance in an 84-77 upset of Southern Conference favorite Furman in the season opener two weeks ago. Time and again he scored from outside or slipped behind the Paladins' man-to-man defense to score layups. It is Division II opponents, however, who have to bear the brunt of Clark's offensive prowess.
"He's a threat, so whether he's hot or not, you have to guard him," said Florida Memorial Coach Alfred Parker after the Knights defeated his Lions 116-70 in Orlando last week.
"We've played against him for four years, and he works very hard and goes to the bucket very well," says Florida Institute of Technology Coach Norm Cockrell. "I'm glad he's a senior."
As a freshman in 1975-76, Clark was the Knights' second leading scorer, with a 24.1 average, which he raised to a third-in-the-nation 28.8 as a sophomore. He sat out the following season after sustaining the foot injury and undergoing an operation to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, then returned to form and was playing well last year, until an accident in a crucial midseason game against Florida Southern nearly cost him his life. With 1:23 to go in the game, the Knights were attempting to stall away a victory. "The ball went through my legs," Bo says. "Three of us dove for it. One of the guys accidentally kneed me in the chest, knocking me to the floor, and then the other guy kneed me right in the temple."
"He went into convulsions almost immediately," says Trainer Ron Ribaric. "I held his head so he wouldn't keep banging it on the floor. It was very fortunate that the team doctor was there. Bo was turning blue and jerking his legs. We were very close to starting CPR [Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation] on him. We worked on him for the better part of 30 minutes."