It was the night of February 24, 2001, hands-down the most significant date in the history of Penn women's basketball...
...the night when the Quakers won at Harvard, 62-57, to clinch the Ivy League title for the first time in program history.
...the night when Penn became the first team in the nation to grace the field of 64.
...the night when the Red and Blue stretched their program-record winning streak to 18 games.
All this, and the Quakers still had three games left to play.
That's it -- the Quakers still had three games left to play.
That's what Jewel Clark couldn't get off her mind while the rest of the Quakers were lost in a sea of emotion, pride and joy because of what they had just accomplished.
When the Quakers' excitement finally died down, Jewel approached coach Kelly Greenberg and asked innocently, "How come we're that excited? We've got three more [games] to win."
Greenberg, a fiery competitor herself, wasn't quite sure how to react. She was caught up in the moment herself. All she could do was look at Jewel in admiration.
Jewel is the consummate competitor; the 5-foot-10 sophomore forward and guard has an insatiable hunger for winning.
"Whenever I do something, I don't like to lose," she says with beaming confidence but nothing extra -- no arrogance, no attitude, just honest confidence.
"I don't want to lose. If I'm playing one on one with somebody, I'm not gonna lose to you.
"If I'm guarding someone on the court, you're not going to score on me. If you're guarding me, I'm gonna take it to the basket. I don't like to lose. If you take that with you and aren't scared of anybody, whatever you want to happen, happens."
So, how did Jewel Clark become so full of confidence -- enough to say that one of her realistic goals this year is to dunk in a game? (She has thrown one down before, but not in competition.)
Without question, Jewel's father Rodney has had a huge influence in instilling her with confidence.
Like a Wall Street recruiter, he bellows: "Self-confidence is important to success. It's not necessarily what you can do, but what you believe you can do."
But Mr. Clark aspires to be more like comeback king Michael Jordan than a business tycoon -- he calls himself the "Fountain of Youth" and is inspired by His Airness to play forever.
And he has been playing for a long time. Even when Jewel was growing up, Mr. Clark would disappear on weekends to his, as he calls it, greatest refuge -- the basketball court.
Jewel's father's love for basketball was imprinted on her.
"She didn't come with me [to the courts], but she knew that's what I did," Mr. Clark recalls. "That was a means of her connecting with me, and her link to basketball was more instinct than something I taught."
Jewel realizes herself that, if anything, her father helped her find her true love.
"My father got me involved but he didn't force me," she says. "That's something that I liked a lot since I was younger."
Jewel took it to the court when she was five and, since then, there has been no obstacle in basketball that Jewel couldn't hurdle over.
Not even boys.
The Waldorf, Md., native played co-ed basketball throughout her childhood.
Initially, Jewel used her 68-inch frame to her advantage in order to compete with the opposite sex. But as she got older and began to encounter opponents with similar heights, Jewel needed something more than inches to succeed.
As her father would realize, Jewel not only had the confidence but the talent to play with boys her size.
Mr. Clark specifically recalled an eighth-grade playoff game --when Jewel squared off against a team with two talented guys -- as the moment when he saw something special in his daughter:
"I told [the two guys] that they would remember her for the rest of their lives," Mr. Clark proudly remembers. "She put it on them and I thought then that this is something she could really do. From that point on, her personal belief really grew."
To no surprise, Jewel blossomed into stardom in high school. At Thomas Stone, she was a fixture in the starting line-up, scoring 1,716 career points.
As a senior, she raked in points and accolades, averaging 19.8 points per game and was named to the Maryland All-State basketball team.
Jewel's high school resume begs curiosity as to why she came to Penn, rather than matriculating at a hoops stronghold.
She mentions being exposed to a city and the attractiveness of the spacious locker room in the Palestra as perks of Penn, but then reveals her true priorities despite her love for basketball:
"When you go to school you can go for a sport, but at the same time you're always going to be a student first. And when I graduate, I want to be looked at as a student. So, I want to feel the most sure that they're not going to look at me and say, 'Yeah you went to a school, but it was some mediocre school.' I want them to know that yes, I'm a basketball player, but I'm a student, too."
Regardless of what she does in the classroom, Jewel will make an impact on the hardwood.
Undoubtedly, her freshman-year success was overshadowed by the team's unprecedented title and the dominance of senior forward Diana Caramanico. Still, Jewel was third on the team with a 9.1 points-per-game average and second on the Quakers with 6.1 rebounds per game in only 24 minutes a contest.
This year, Jewel will be in the spotlight again as the Red and Blue look to defend their title.
Of course, she is up to the challenge of being the main offensive option.
In her mind, filling the shoes of Caramanico can be solved with the stroke of a pen and a whole bunch of confidence.
"There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to," she says nonchalantly. "As a matter of fact, before each game I write my goals on a sheet of paper and put it in my sock. I look at it right before the game starts and at halftime. If I'm not doing what it says for the first half of the game, I look at it a halftime to remind myself of what I should be doing. I might add that to my list -- rebounds and scoring."
It sounds too easy as a recipe for success, but Jewel has a wealth of talent and a mountain of confidence in her arsenal.
"We wouldn't expect her to step up if we didn't think she could," Greenberg said. "She'll step up to the plate and take a swing at it."
Without question, if the Quakers are to repeat as Ivy champs, Jewel will be leading the way.
And, maybe this time, she'll let herself get swept away in the moment.Comments powered by Disqus
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