“These 40 minutes are not my friend.” The show pits Gonzaga’s Drew Timme against longtime coach Tennessee ast. Rod Clark

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Rod Clark was fresh out of a NAIA college basketball career, working at a Nike factory outlet in Dallas, and trying to break into the AAU coaching scene. His first AAU gig came with Dallas-based club RM5 Elite and the following summer he began coaching another EYBL team in the area, Nike Pro Skills.

That’s where Clark met a goofy 15-year-old with big feet and a surprising array of post moves. The player was unrefined but showed potential. Looking to invest in his son’s future, the player’s father enlisted Clark’s help with one-on-one coaching.

Seven years later, the partnership has produced impressive results for both mentor and mentee.

Drew Timme is one of two favorites to win National Player of the Year honors — a two-time All-American who has a chance to break Gonzaga’s career-high in his fourth college season. At 29, Clark is considered the youngest assistant coach at the major level and is preparing to enter his second season under Rick Barnes at Tennessee. The Volunteers won the SEC Tournament last spring and ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll.

An exhibition between the Bulldogs and the Volunteers had been in the works since late summer, so when the college basketball powerhouses wrapped up Friday’s game at the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas, Clark called Timme to break the news. .

The Legends of Basketball Charity Classic will begin at 6 p.m. PT. Fans can pay $9.99 to watch the game pay-per-view, with proceeds from the event benefiting the McLendon Foundation.

“We always talk man, so it was great just for the simple fact that we always had a relationship, we obviously grew closer because we did a lot of things together and obviously I got to see him grow. the player National of the Year in college basketball and he saw me become a top Division I coach,” Clark said by phone earlier this week. “Obviously when I started coaching him, he was big and goofy, so to see us now years later being where we are and being able to be at the highest level of college basketball, I think it’s kind of a time we look back on each other. In admiration.

“Like, look where we came from and look where we are.”

There’s not much time for nostalgia, though. As Tennessee began preparing for Friday’s exhibition, Barnes, who led the volunteer program for eight seasons and won Naismith Coach of the Year honors in 2019, dropped a daunting task on Clark’s desk.

“It’s funny man, because lo and behold, the scout is mine for this game,” Clark said. “So I’m going to be over there talking to our team about how to stop a guy that I had a lot of influence on and helped develop for a few years. Granted, it’s taken off since that time, but it’s going to be fun. I’ll probably talk to them about the little stuff. I’ll tell them how much he loves his spinning motion.

Volunteers can be successful if Clark is able to deconstruct a machine he helped create. Timme is averaging 18.7 points since becoming a full-time starter at Gonzaga and is one of the most effective two-point scorers in college basketball, making 63.7% of his shots in career inside the 3-point line.

“When he turns it on, there’s no one in the country who can keep it,” Clark said. “Nobody.”

Clark won’t claim to have all the answers, but he has a better idea of ​​Timme’s tendencies than the vast majority of coaches who will try to plan a game for the Zags this season – an exercise that usually begins and ends with the stoppage of the qualified senior. .

“My biggest thing with Drew is that I always tell people when they ask me, ‘How do you keep Drew Timme?’ I tell them, ‘If he can smell you, he’ll probably kill you.’ I always say that,” Clark said. “So if he leans on you, don’t let him lean on you, back off. Because if you lean on him, he’s very smart, his feeling is so elite that he’ll find the angle he needs to fetch a bucket real quick.

Over the years, Clark’s has remained one of Timme’s biggest advocates. He FaceTimed the Gonzaga star ahead of the 2021 National Championship Game, traveled to Chicago this summer to watch Timme compete in the NBA Draft Combine, and discussed the pros and cons of going pro versus returning to the NBA. university.

Clark’s notorious “Breakfast Club” workouts—5 a.m. rallies designed for Dallas-area hoopers focused on reaching the next level—were a key aspect of Timme’s development. Other attendees included Tyrese Maxey of the Philadelphia 76ers, Texas Tech star De’Vion Harmon and former NBA player Shaquille Harrison.

“It was a time when Drew was just starting to get into it and I think he really decided he wanted to focus on that and really improve himself and kind of develop his work ethic in terms of is about improving his game,” said Megan, Timme’s mother. . “…They all pushed each other to improve and the fact that Drew got up in the morning was pretty amazing, it just showed how motivated they were to elevate their games.”

There has been a dialogue between Clark and Timme since the Tennessee assistant revealed Friday’s game over the phone a few months ago.

“He was like, ‘What? No, we’re not.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah we are,'” Clark recalled. “The first thing he said was, ‘Man, I love you, but I wish we were playing a D3 school so that I can relax a bit. I guess so, I can see my boy, so that’s cool. He’s like, ‘No, I saw you play. I want to beat somebody 40’.

That’s probably because the best matchup comes in late October rather than late March, “because I don’t want him to end my season and I don’t want to end his,” Clark laughed.

Things will be cordial between the two heading into Friday’s game, but Clark has watched Timme enough to know how the senior striker flips a switch when the ball is knocked down.

“I’m going to see him before the game, we’re going to kiss, we’re going to kiss, he’s my man,” Clark said. “But when this game starts he’s going to look at our bench – I’m just telling you now – he’s going to score, he’s going to look at our bench, he’s going to start yelping, I’m going to yelp back at him and we’re probably going to hate each other for 40 minutes. Then when it’s over, we’re gonna hug and laugh and joke, and I’m gonna see his mom and give him a hug, see his dad.

“But those 40 minutes are not my friend.”

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