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Michigan State Spartans Basketball: The Marvin Clark Apologist's Ode to Marvin Clark

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

I'm going to make a wild, probably indefensible statement: Marvin Clark is the best Michigan State basketball player to ever transfer away from MSU because of playing time.

Here's a list of notable recent MSU transfers, and their reasons:

Player Reason
Doug Davis Playing Time
Brandon Cotton Playing Time
Maurice Joseph Playing Time
Tom Herzog Playing Time
Chris Allen Dismissed
Garrick Sherman Playing Time
Korie Lucious Dismissed
Dwaun Anderson Family Issues
Brandan Kearney Playing Time
Russell Byrd Playing Time/Injury
Kenny Kaminski Dismissed
Marvin Clark Playing Time
Javon Bess Playing Time

An interesting list. I'm going to run through each player who transferred for playing time reasons:

Doug Davis (MSU career here), Total Win Shares: 5.6, Win Shares/Season: 1.4

Ended up being a decent MAC-level player at Miami of Ohio.

Brandon Cotton, Total Win Shares: 7.1, Win Shares/Season: 1.8

Had the highest ceiling of any transfer. Ended up averaging 18 points per game at Detroit Mercy but did little else.

Maurice Joseph, Total Win Shares: 7.0, Win Shares/Season: 1.8

Helped Vermont to the tournament in 2009-10, with maybe one of the best individual post-MSU seasons of anyone, with 4.1 win shares.

Tom Herzog, Total Win Shares: 2.5, Win Shares/Season: 0.4

Probably now best known as a Magic: The Gathering player.

Garrick Sherman, Total Win Shares: 4.8, Win Shares/Season: 1.2

Probably now best known for his epic Twitter rant.

Brandan Kearney, Total Win Shares: 2.3, Win Shares/Season: 0.5

Also ended up at Detroit Mercy by way of Arizona State; averaged 6 points - 2 rebounds - 2 assists as a Senior in the Horizon league.

Russell Byrd, Total Win Shares: 0.7, Win Shares/Season: 0.2

Ended up at a non-D1 school. We'll always have Iowa.

Javon Bess, Total Win Shares: 1.6, Win Shares/Season: 0.8

I believe Bess could be a terrific player in a lower-tier conference. Bess simply doesn't have the size to be a power forward in the Big Ten, but in the MAC or the Horizon he absolutely has that type of size and could certainly be a homeless man's version of Draymond Green with his passing ability.

Marvin Clark, Total Win Shares: 2.8, Win Shares/Season: 1.4

The crude metrics I've been citing are for players' entire careers, not just their MSU careers. At MSU, Brandon Cotton had exactly 0 win shares. MoJo had 1.0 win shares, or 0.5 per season. Doug Davis has 1.3 win shares, or 0.6 per season.

I also need to acknowledge that win shares probably overstate how good Marvin Clark was on defense. Defensive win shares are mostly based upon team defensive statistics, as individual defensive stats are spotty.

Still, Marvin Clark was basically a poor man's Raymar Morgan: he could hit outside jumpers (including threes) and was better off guarding opponent power forwards than chasing guards on the perimeter. Clark turned the ball over too much (about 20% of possessions) but made up for that with an effective field goal percentage north of 60%. This made Clark generally efficient despite surprisingly high usage. In an era when stretch-4's are especially valuable in college basketball, Marvin Clark was a luxury.


Over the final few weeks of the regular season, it seemed like Marvin began to understand his role a bit better. He was passing up some outside shots, focusing on rebounding, and defending. I mentioned it on Twitter a number of times.

In the Big Ten Tournament, however, Marvin posted three straight games with higher than 20% usage, shooting just 5-for-12 from the field and fouling out against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.

In the NCAA tournament, Colby Wollenman got more minutes in crunch time than Marvin, with Kenny Goins having left the game due to injury. It turns out his final basket in an MSU uniform came with 13:51 left in the first half against Middle Tennessee State.

I suspect he'll be just fine wherever he ends up.