A lot of people underestimate Kason Clark.
A lot of people underestimate Kason Clark.
At first glance it is easy to do. Clark said he has dealt with it most of his life.
“I never looked like a great athlete because of my arm,” Clark said. “I would get picked last for games. People were always underestimating me.”
When Clark says “because of my arm” the condition he is referring to is an underdeveloped left arm. He suffered a brachial plexus injury at birth. This injury occurs when the nerves between the neck and shoulder are damaged during birth.
It wasn’t easy to correct.
“We noticed it immediately,” said Tommy Clark, Kason’s father. “His left arm wasn’t moving at all.”
Tommy said that if Kason hadn’t had surgery in the first year of his life, his arm could have been permanently paralyzed. Kason was able to have corrective surgery, but it took three surgeries to fully correct the issue. Even after the surgeries, Kason’s left arm still won’t add muscle normally and his range of motion is limited.
“I’m like a 90-year old man,” Kason said. “It pops all the time and I have to stretch it a lot to keep it from getting stiff.”
However, the biggest problem Clark’s injury causes these days is having to use his right hand to give high fives after scoring 20 points on an opponent – like he did Tuesday night when his No. 14 Seminole Chieftains beat No. 15 Ada.
Becoming a starter on a ranked team didn’t come easily for Kason, but it didn’t have to. Kason knows how to work hard to accomplish what he sets out to do.
“He is a gym rat,” his father said. “He works hard, especially with his left hand to be able to handle the ball and do lay-ups.”
His coach, Josh Edenborough, agreed. Edenborough is in his second year in Seminole. When he first saw Kason play, he didn’t even notice anything was different about him. The past couple of years have shown Edenborough how Kason has overcome the disadvantage he has dealt with since birth.
“If he isn’t the hardest working player I have ever coached, he is in the top two,” Edenborough said. “He doesn’t complain. He works hard and just goes out and gets it done.”
His coach said Kason is one of the best shooters in 4A and no one plays harder. But those characteristics aren’t even what impress the coach most about him.
“He is amazing,” Edenborough said. “He is super polite, super friendly, super smart – one of the highest GPAs in his class – just an all around all-American kind of kid.”
His father said the secret to Kason's success really isn't a secret at all.
"He has two older brothers so he was never coddled. He never let his arm slow him down," Tommy said. "From when he was a little boy and learned to climb on monkey bars by himself, we knew he would figure things out. He is a young man with a strong faith. We all deal with difficulties, but he has always relied on that faith and hard work to achieve his goals."
Last year in the playoffs, one of the student sections supporting an opponent decided to poke fun at Kason because of his arm. Kason didn’t even find out about it until after the game. He said it wouldn’t have bothered him if he had. It would only serve to motivate him. His coach agreed.
“If that happened and he knew it, it wouldn’t go well for the other team,” Edenborough said. “Kason would lock in and feed off of it to push even harder.”
His best friend since the fifth grade, 6’8” Adam Nance also agreed that the taunts wouldn’t bother Kason.
“It would just fuel his fire to beat the other team,” Nance said. “It doesn’t really affect him.” For the record, Nance is also the only person who gives Kason a hard time about the condition. He calls Kason’s left arm his “lucky fin” like the title character’s small fin in “Finding Nemo.”
“Adam always calls my arm my ‘lucky fin,” Kason said. “We’ve been best friends forever. No one else really talks about it at all.”
Kason said a lot of teams think his arm will be a disadvantage to him but he feels comfortable going to his left and his work has allowed him to be able to dribble and score from that side. Even though his arm will never have what is considered 100 percent mobility or strength, Kason has put in the work to develop his skills to the point where it doesn’t slow him down.
“I can still go left,” Kason said. “I can cross over or jab step to the right and go past a defender. They think I have a disadvantage and I try to use that to my advantage.”
The Chieftains are 6-1 on the year. They go back to work in the Stroud Tournament on Jan. 4. Kason said the team has been outspoken about their goals.
They lost to Harrah in the area finals last year. The Chieftains are using that disappointment to inspire them this season.
“We want to win it all,” Kason said. ‘That’s our goal and we’re doing everything we can to get there.”