Freshman Clark Slajchert’s transition to Penn basketball has been anything but ordinary.
He’s taking classes from home, hasn’t been able to meet any of his teammates in person yet, and found out that his freshman season would be canceled while waiting to enter a Zoom call in his childhood bedroom. Despite this tumultuous start to his freshman year, he is dedicated to preparing for next season.
Hailing from Thousand Oaks, Calif., Slajchert is a scoring point guard who specializes in shifty ball handling and driving to the basket for easy layups or mid-range jumpers. Slajchert dominated the court for his high school team, Oak Park. He graduated as the second-leading scorer in the history of Ventura County basketball, finished his career as 17th all-time scorer in California, and led the state in scoring with 31 points per game as a senior.
For Slajchert, scoring has always been natural to him, and he plans to transition that to the next level.
“Whether it be in high school or in competition at AAU, I’ve always been able to put the ball in the basket,” Slajchert said. “I’m the type of player who isn’t scared of anyone on the floor, and I think that’s something the coaches saw in me.”
Ever since he was a freshman in high school, Slajchert has carried a gritty mentality with him to compliment his game.
“Playing with three Division I upperclassmen as a freshman and playing against some of the best teams in the country ignited something in me,” Slajchert said. “I had to lock in every day to get better and reach the point where I could have a major impact on any court regardless of my size.”
The mindset Slajchert has carried since freshman year translated well to his game in AAU basketball against some of the top recruits in the country. Because of his experience in high school practicing with top athletes, he felt comfortable playing at the highest level.
“I was conditioned to earn and give respect based on what happened on the court,” Slajchert said. “It’s not always about who’s the biggest player, but who can leave their impact on the game.”
Being the youngest of four brothers also factored into how he has gotten ready for college basketball. With two of his older brothers, Wes and J.D., also having experience playing D-I basketball, Slajchert has been used to competing against D-I talent from an early age.
Especially playing with his older brother, Wes, in high school, Slajchert cultivated a fearless playing mentality.
Though they competed daily in practice, when it came to game time, Wes and Clark Slajchert combined for a potent duo.
“When we played together, he let me focus on scoring while he would focus on everything else,” Slajchert said. “My brothers showed me what it takes to make it to the next level — the work you need to put in when nobody’s watching.”
Slajchert is grateful for his brothers’ advice during his journey to D-I. He said that it has been an advantage to have grown up in a basketball family that has helped pave a path for his career.
“Though most high school basketball players are playing more recreationally, what I learned from my brothers is that if I want to be successful you have to make a certain commitment to basketball,” Slajchert said.
Slajchert’s decision to commit to Penn was instinctual. He had a strong relationship with the coaches, he loved the campus, and he embraced the academic opportunities Penn offered.
“Penn left a strong impression on me,” Slajchert said. “After my official visit I didn’t even think about any other options, I committed. It was everything I wanted out of a school.”
Another big draw for Slajchert was the program’s history.
“I saw a winning program in Penn,” Slajchert said. “The coaches confirmed that Penn basketball had a clear culture: We’re not going to stop until we reach a certain destination, and we want to get better each day. That’s definitely an environment I want to be in.”
Slajchert has clear goals for when he finally does come to Penn. Regardless of the magnitude of his goals, however, they all follow a common thread.
“All of my goals revolve around team success,” Slajchert said. “I want us to win Ivy League championships. I want to be part of Penn’s winning culture. I want to be showing up everyday to practice with a clear purpose of improving.”
Looking ahead to next season, Slajchert recognizes the challenges in staying motivated while preparing for a season that’s a year away.
“It’s easy to get distracted and think that the season is so far away,” Slajchert said. “As long as we don’t lose a positive attitude and continue bringing energy toward our preparation, I think we can be successful next year.”
This year has been anything but what Slajchert had expected. While getting ready for the upcoming season, however, Slajchert is still coming to terms with one of the bigger challenges ahead of him: playing against his brother Wes for the first time at Dartmouth.