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Clark twins play different roles for the Trojans

Jan. 10—Northeast Lauderdale's varsity basketball squad (13-4, 1-1 Region 4-4A) is off to a hot start this season thanks in large part to a roster filled with small but athletic guards. Many of these guards use similar skill sets on the court, but no two Trojans guards are completely alike, including Jeremiah and Nehemiah Clark.

The Clark brothers have very similar builds and could be difficult to tell apart when on the court if not for the big block numbers printed across their jerseys, yet the twins add different abilities and play styles to the Trojans' roster. Still, both play important roles on and off the court for Northeast Lauderdale.

"Whenever they're on the floor, they bring energy on the floor. If they're on the bench, they're cheering on the other guys. In the locker room they're leaders, and they talk, communicate and help lead the other guys." Northeast Lauderdale coach Lewis Lightsey said of the brothers. "I think the other thing is they build off each other with Jeremiah being a better shooter and Nehemiah being a little better defender and jumper. So, their games feed off each other, and that helps a lot."

Jeremiah Clark is more of a ball-handling guard who can both shoot from deep and attack from under the basket while Nehemiah does much of his offensive work around the lane. Both of the speedy twins are threats to produce steals in Northeast Lauderdale's press defense, but Lightsey said Nehemiah is a skilled on-ball defender as well.

"Jeremiah is strong at handling the ball, making decisions, and can shoot it, and can also get to the basket," Lightsey said. "Nehemiah's strength is really getting to the basket, and he can really jump."

The Clark twins have played for Lightsey since they were freshmen, and their father lives next to the coach, so Lightsey knows them well. He said both seniors have grown up a lot in the time that he has known them.

"They were small, they had to grow, they had to mature, and they've worked very hard to get where they are, they really have," Lightsey said. "When they were younger players they didn't know each other on the court as well as we wanted them to, and the more that they've grown and the more that they've played together, they have a kind of a sense about each other.

The Clarks have played basketball since they were young, and Jeremiah said it has become his favorite hobby. Nehemiah said he and his brother are very competitive, and they honed their abilities on the court by playing against each other daily at home. Now, they feel a heightened awareness for each other when playing for the Trojans.

"It's very fun, I know where he's at at all times," Jeremiah said. "I see him do stuff that nobody else does, and on defense we read each other and get easy steals."

Jeremiah said his role is to make plays with the ball in his hands and find open teammates while Nehemiah, the "more athletic twin," searches for open looks at the basket. They both like to attack the rim, and Jeremiah is always looking for Nehemiah cutting backdoor when he drives in for a layup.

"It's pretty fun, we're basically like the same person," Nehemiah said. "We love playing with each other."

Jeremiah has served as one of the Trojans' primary scoring options this season as Nehemiah recovers from an ankle injury he suffered early in the season. Lightsey said he has been progressing in his recovery and appears to be coming back into form.

Even when not on the court, the Clark twins contribute to Northeast Lauderadle's success as senior leaders and captains. Lightsey said they keep the team's energy high and perform various leadership tasks, such as when they reached out to a junior varsity player's mother to check on him following a recent surgery.

"They're great young men, very smart, very intelligent, and as teammates they're great to the freshmen," Lightsey said. "They really are good to the young guys. They check on them, they take care of the young guys, they kind of show them the ropes."

The Clarks helped Northeast Lauderdale achieve a 12-3 start in non-region play this season, and the Trojans are 1-1 in region play heading into Friday's matchup with Newton County. The Trojans have proven capable of beating bigger teams with quickness and athleticism even with four guards on the court at a time, and the Clark twins have their sights set on success in region and postseason competition after Northeast Lauderdale fell to Pontotoc in the first round of the playoffs last season.

"This all started in the spring when we lost in the playoffs last year," Lightsey said. "This group of guys came back, we got into the gym in the springtime. They worked and developed their skills, we worked really hard on individual skills, dribbling and shooting and those kinds of things, and then the weight room in the spring, and then we kind of exploded in the summer and had a very good summer, and it's kind of carried over into this year."

Contact Christian Knox at cknox@themeridianstar.com