Landon Clark, who just completed his sophomore year at Bangor High School, already is thinking ahead to his college basketball future still at least two years away.
One option figures to be just a few exits north on Interstate 95, as the 6-foot-7 forward announced on social media Thursday that he has received a scholarship offer from the University of Maine.
“Being a hometown guy with UMaine about 10 minutes from where I live, watching games and seeing guys who went to high school in Maine like [former UMaine standout] Andrew Fleming, you want to be like them so to have that opportunity is something special,” Clark said.
Clark won’t be able to sign a National Letter of Intent to accept a scholarship offer until the fall of 2023 at the earliest, but he’s appreciative of the early interest new Black Bears’ basketball coach Chris Markwood and his staff have taken in him and his future.
“Especially with it being UMaine, that’s a dream for every kid from Maine to have UMaine as an opportunity,” Clark said. “It’s something I really cherish.”
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Clark is coming off a 2021-22 season at Bangor High where he was named to the Bangor Daily News All-Maine first team after averaging 21.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game and ranking second in Class AA North in both categories to the state’s Mr. Basketball, UMaine-bound forward John Shea of Edward Little High School in Auburn.
Clark shot better than 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc last winter and added 1.9 steals and 1.7 assists per game.
Clark currently is playing his third season of AAU basketball with Maine United, a team that features Cooper Flagg, the 6-foot-7 standout from Newport who as a freshman led Nokomis Regional High School to the 2022 Class A state championship and has been ranked by ESPN as the third-best player nationally in the Class of 2025.
“I think the most important part about Cooper is he’s a great kid. You just cheer for him so much more for all the respect and all the attention he’s getting because of how good of a teammate and a friend he is,” Clark said.
“And just being able to compete with him in practice, he doesn’t back down to anybody. We play against the top people in the nation and he doesn’t back down, and in practice he goes as hard as everybody I’ve ever seen so to just be able to compete against him and guard him makes you better.”
Maine United is competing in the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League and already has qualified for that organization’s season-ending Peach Jam national tournament set for July 17-24 in Augusta, Georgia, based on the 7-1 record the team posted in its first two qualifying events in Orlando, Florida, and Indianapolis, Indiana, earlier this spring.
“It’s made everybody better playing against the best competition in the country, but I think one of the most important parts is competing every day in practice with these guys since they’re the best group of guys from around the state,” Clark said. “When we compete in practice it sets us up nicely for when we compete against the top competition in the whole country.”
Clark is playing wing on the AAU level, somewhat different from high school competition where he has blended perimeter play with time spent closer to the basket.
“[Wing] is really where I’d play in college as well,” he said. “But in high school my team needed me down low so that’s where I played. If Maine United needs me down there I’ll play down there, and if they need me on the wing I’ll play on the wing.”
The Maine United team, coached by former University of Maine guard Andy Bedard, has attracted considerable attention from major-college coaches at the tournaments they’ve already competed in this spring due to Flagg’s presence, as the 6-foot-8 point forward has attracted scholarship offers from the likes of Duke and UCLA.
That could mean additional recruiting attention for others on the team like Clark.
“I think for everybody, playing with who in my opinion is the No. 1 player in the country obviously brings everybody there,” Clark said. “You don’t play for that attention, you just play to win, but he brings all the attention. It’s pretty cool.”
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Flagg and his twin brother, 6-foot-7 forward Ace Flagg, are set to transfer from Nokomis to national prep power Montverde (Florida) Academy in August for the start of their sophomore year of high school.
Maine United’s presence in the Nike league for the first time this year also has heightened the competitive level of the opposition. The only team that has defeated the Maine team in EYBL competition to date was led by the twin sons of former Duke University and NBA standout Carlos Boozer, with 6-foot-8 power forward Cameron Boozer ranked as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2025 by ESPN and twin brother Cayden, a 6-foot-3 guard, rated 24th.
“Everybody you play is just quick and so bouncy and so tall, so it’s different in how you create your own shot, how you get shot off, and in defending you have to get quicker,” Clark said.
“We know that we’re never going to be favored by 20 in any game we play, so we have to just work harder to get better every day in order to play against the best of the best.”