Je’Lani Clark goes up for a basket against Dublin in the NorCal Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 24, 2018, at Newark Memorial High School. (Chris Victorio / Special to S.F. Examiner)

Je’Lani Clark goes up for a basket against Dublin in the NorCal Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 24, 2018, at Newark Memorial High School. (Chris Victorio / Special to S.F. Examiner)

Riordan guard Je’Lani Clark commits to Nevada

Top local wing commits to Steve Alford and Nevada basketball

Three weeks before the beginning of his senior season, Riordan guard Je’Lani Clark announced his commitment to the University of Nevada after new Wolf Pack had coach Steve Alford showed significant interest.

“Nevada is just one big family,” Clark said. “I love the campus and all the staff. They really care about you as a student before as an athlete.”

Associate head coach Craig Neal, who’s served as Alford’s right-hand man at Iowa and New Mexico, began recruiting Clark after he participated in an NCAA camp in Phoenix.

Clark transitioned from a point guard role to shooting guard last year as his cousin, Bryce Monroe, transferred to Riordan from Sacred Heart Cathedral. Monroe, a Sam Houston State commit, averaged 17.7 points per game as a junior while Clark averaged 15.4. With the two leading the way, the Crusaders went 18-9 and finished second in the West Catholic Athletic League, where they posted a 10-4 mark. In the state tournament, they were placed in Division I but bowed out in the first round, losing at home to Folsom, 68-64.

The Crusaders have shown improvement in both their league and overall records in each successive year with Clark playing, going just 8-18 in his freshman year and winning just one game in WCAL play. As a sophomore, they went 17-12, winning the Central Coast Section Division III Championship in Joey Curtin’s first season as head coach.

“His ability to shoot from outside with range has improved,” Curtin said. “His ability to play with and without the ball has improved greatly, as has his defensive intensity and focus.”

That defensive intensity helped Clark average two steals per game as a junior, as well as 6.1 rebounds. He shot 58.1% on 2-pointers last year and 34.8% from 3-point range.

The Crusaders open their season on November 30 at 3:45 p.m. when the take on San Juan Capistrano-JSerra Catholic at the Newark Memorial NorCal Tip-Off Classic. Their first home game will be on Dec. 4, as they open the 61st annual Crusader Classic. On Dec. 10, Riordan hosts Stockton power Weston Ranch, a Northern California Open Division participant last year, and they’ll face NorCal Open finalist Modesto Christian on Dec. 21 in San Jose at Valley Christian’s Basa-Merza Classic.

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