For every kid that picks up a basketball. There is a starting point and ending point. In-between there are decisions and choices every kid and their family must make. These decisions often come down to how a player handles their ego, disappointments and inner circle. The choices one makes can be the difference in success, disappointment or making a dream come true. The odds are not always in a kids favor at the start. But with good decisions and good choices a player can even the playing field. ELI CLARKE OF OCEAN TWP did more than even the playing field. Though hard work, commitment and laser focus she not only beat the odds she changed the fortunes for a high school, her family and herself. She is the biggest example of what can be if you have a vision and purpose. It’s why ELI CKARKE will join 1.4% of the high school population playing D1 basketball as she has committed to LEMOYNE COLLEGE OF THE NORTHEAST CONFERENCE.
ELI CLARKE was never considered a future star growing up. She was never a player who was talked about very much. She didn’t play on a high profile AAU team. She came from a town that didn’t produce star basketball players and certainly not D1 players. Eli Clarke was one of those young players few paid much attention too. She was considered one of the kids who played basketball for recreational purposes. But ELI CLARKE must have been given that pill, people take that make you believe anything. Instead of moping around and going though the motions. Eli Clarke found something magical within herself to do what to many seemed impossible at one time . While nobody was paying attention to her passion and love of the game, Eli Clarke somehow never lost her faith. Eli Clarke was like a lot of kids. Cast to the side and thrown on that island of misfit toys. You know, what I mean, she was one of the kids not in the “IT CROWD” of the basketball world. She was that kid who walked in the gym and the coaches and band name players barely paid attention to her. She was not invited into the circle of so called ballers and future stars. She was kid that nobody has an interest in developing or playing with. The kid that had no friends among the stars that play the game. She didn’t have an image or reputation to lean back on. Eli Clarke was that kid like so many others before her, not seen or heard; Just a ghost. But unlike most kids ELI CLARKE, never cared what others thought of her. It’s what she thought of herself and what she could become and what she did become that mattered most. So she work around everyone and took the BACKROADS TO SUCESS.
“IT’S WHY ELI CLARKE IS A EXAMPLE FOR ANY KID WITH A DREAM”
I learned a long time ago. When kids gets no love and are surrounded by kids drowning in love and attention from coaches and trainers. They move on and find that love they’re looking for. When kids are surrounded by kids getting tweeted about, written about or promoted. They often go find a new place. Often they try to attach themselves to a name or a brand program, coach or kid. They don’t understand all the thing’s mentioned above mean little in the long run unless you are good enough. Unless you master your craft. Eli Clarke understood all this, it’s why she never stop chasing her dreams. It why she never ran from the disrespect she often encountered daily regarding her game. You see it comes down to ego often. Eli Clarke never let her ego get in the way of progress, the big picture or her dream. Not even when she walked in the gym and I barely knew her name. Not when she was regulated to the side courts. Not the court where the stars walk. You see Eli Clarke knew that all she needed was a gym and ball and lots of focus. She knew that she would eventually have her way. So she gave herself completely to the game of basketball. It was one of those in-between the start and end choices that many kids can’t make. So Eli headed to the backroads. A place that can get lonely but it can also lead to sweet dreams. Remember Eli Clarke took that pill that makes you believe anything is possible and washed it down with bottle of unstoppable.
Sometimes a kid needs an advocate. Someone who will offer a helping hand. ERIN KENNEDY was that helping hand for Eli Clarke. It was she that saw what so many others could not see in Eli Clarke. She saw a kid that was willing to do anything to get better. She knew Eli Clarke would give her heart and soul to the game of basketball. So when others ignored Eli Clarke. Erin Kennedy went to work. She drilled her and encouraged her to keep getting better. She helped develop what we all see today, the most ferocious appetite for coaching in the state of New Jersey. That is not an exaggeration. ELI CLARKE is a gym rat of gym rats. But what’s more impressive, is that she became this gym rat in the dark. When nobody was acknowledging her presence or growth as a player. ERIN KENNEDY saw what we all can see now… long before ELI CLARKE hit it big.
I tell kids often, you will become your INNER CIRCLE. Eli Clarke’s inner circle was not filled with people full of themselves. It was not filled with so called stars of the game. Her inner circle was filled with gym rats. Jineen Ayyash and her sister Kayden Clarke formed a circle of gym rats. The three lived in the gym. They trained with Erin Kennedy and attended every single Hoop Group training session available to them. They missed nothing. Then they challenged themselves at NBS when they were casted aside and made to feel like 2nd class citizens. All three, did all this without the slightest bit of verbal support. They were left to sink in the background. They were expected to be like so many before them. Move to a new gym, find trainers to whisper sweet nothings in their hears. Find an inner circle that hides from the truth. Instead they showed up over and over. Instead they accepted the criticism directed at them while barley hearing a good word. You see Eli Clarke had something to lean on … REAL FRIENDS!
If you want to play college basketball you didn’t go to Ocean Twp. You certainly didn’t go there if you wanted to be a D1 player. Well that may have been the case before ELI CLARKE arrived. But not these days. Eli knew that everyone expected her to attend Ocean Twp. She couldn’t possibly play at one of the top schools. But what they didn’t know was Eli Clarke, didn’t want to play at one of those so called Top teams. She knew what so many other kids do not know. It’s not the school that matters, it’s the player. It’s why OCEAN TWP is now one of the best programs in the entire state of New Jersey. Last year they were a Top 20 team, won over 20 games and Top 5 in the Shore Conference. It’s why Ocean won a Divisional Title for the first time in 26 years. All because one player believed in herself. One player saw the big picture before anyone else. That one player, Eli Clarke, knew she’d never get her due. So she did what all the great ones do..
“ELI CLARKE PLAYED SO GOOD THEY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO NOTICE HER”
Here is a lesson for kids, all kids. Eli Clarke doesn’t look the part. She is not big, long, athletic or hyped up. But that’s fine because what Eli Clarke does do, is play the part. She plays the part of floor general, leader, captain, big shot maker and winner in award winning fashion. Eli never gets flustered on or off the court. She is level headed always. Nothing ever throws her off her game. I remember last year when Ocean Twp lost to Shore Reg. Everyone was saying “overrated”. I spoke to Eli afterwards and this is what she said in a calm voice “It’s okay we play them again”. Well after that lost, Ocean went on a long winning streak. They beat Top 10 Cherokee and went on to be ranked in the State Top 20. And about that second game with Shore Reg?well, that was a massacre as Ocean Township and Eli Clarke sent a message to all.
ELI CLARKE IS A STAR AND OCEAN IS REAL
Eli Clarke has played for the Shoreshots her entire AAU career. She didn’t play on the HGSL so called “A” teams coming up. But her father ELLIOTT and mom KARA. Never made a fuss. They never claimed their daughter should be on one of the more visible teams along the way. They let Eli find her own path on her own team. The parents support ELI with encouragement not with complaining and blaming. They simply have the belief that if you do all you can, cover all bases. Don’t make excuses and be a good person. All will work out just fine. So when Eli Clarke joined the U17 HGSL SHORESHOTS this year, it was proof that their patience was worth it. Eli Clarke is lucky, because Elliott and Kara Clarke want the best for there daughter but they are most happy she has earned everything along the way…. including a free education.
ELI CLAKE has knownTracey Sabino her entire basketball life. Tracey has watched Eli go from an unknown to a proven star. This summer Tracey Sabino got a up close and personal look at Eli Clarke. She knew Eli was good or she would have not put her on the team. What she didn’t know was Eli Clarke wasn’t good, she was great!!!! She really didn’t know that Eli was the ultimate leader and teammate. She found out that Eli Clarke was one of her best players even when she wasn’t scoring. She learned Eli Clarke affects the game in some many ways. She found out that Eli Clarke was better than she could ever imagined. It’s why Tracey Sabino, contacted Lemoyne College and told them I have the perfect player for you.
TRACEY SABINO has no match when it comes to delivering on her promises. While others talk Tracey Sabino does and she does over and over. It’s why, when Eli Clarke was being recruited. She told me “ELI deserves the best, she has worked so hard” I told Tracey, I agreed and certain D1 schools would not be good fits and that Eli needs to take her time. So that’s what Eli did. What she has always had to do. Wait until she found the right thing. Not the next thing but the right thing. The right thing being LEMOYNE COLLEGE. A school that has many of the same similarities to Ocean Twp when Eli walked into the high school school. Now ELI ClARKE gets to make everyone BELIEVE once again all over. Except now there are no doubts about who or what Eli Clarke can do on a basketball court. She has beaten away all the those doubts and thoughts about her along the way. She got on the backroads and worked her way into the hearts of all, it is she now that is one of those stars. The only difference is that Eli Clarke can tell those kids who are dismissed there is indeed a way to the light.
— Coach Tiny Green (@TinyGreenNBS) August 24, 2023
These are facts in the above video not just words. Every word is a fact. I believe what happens in between the start and the finish is everything. Eli Clarke is not finished by a long shot. But what she is leaving behind is a blueprint for every kid on the outside looking in. ELI has showed every kid looking for hope and recognition the backroads. She did despite being kicked around, mistreated and unappreciated while not having anyone outside of family and inner circle to lean on. She did it by working harder than everyone and FINALLY MAKING US ALL BELIEVE… every kid can be Eli Clarke
YOU JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE AND BEHAVE LIKE ELI CLARK
CONGRATULATIONS TO ELI AND LEMOYNE….no kid has ever done it like you ELI❤️
ELI CLAKE OFFICIAL VIDEO- “TAKE THE BACK ROADS”
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