By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
Baylor senior forward Tristan Clark announced on Tuesday that he will be medically retiring from basketball, bringing his successful career at Baylor to a close.
Clark said the decision was difficult but necessary for his mental and physical health going forward.
“It’s a very, very hard decision,” Clark said. “But I’ve been through a lot these past couple of years and mentally and physically it was just a lot for me. I decided to take my mental state over the physical pain and going through all of that.”
Prior to his injury sophomore year, Clark led the Bears averaging 14.6 points per game and an incredibly efficient 76% field goal percentage. However, following the injury to his left knee that held him out for the rest of the 2018/19 season, Clark was never the same. The forward only averaged 13 minutes per game last season and four points per game.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said the team will miss Clark and that it was incredibly difficult to see his career come to a premature close.
“Probably the hardest thing was seeing the finale of it when he shared it with us, the staff, and when he shared it with the players,” Drew said. “He’s a teammate that really cares about his other team members and he always wanted be there to help them and when he had to tell them he wouldn’t be able to do this anymore, I know that was emotional for him.”
Clark will continue to be around the basketball program and will seek to finish his degree in sports psychology, which he hopes to use to help future athletes.
“Tristan’s really excited about sports psychology and making a difference in that field and helping out others, especially with his personal experience,” Drew said. “I know we are focused on trying to help him make sure that he’s set up to do what he’d like to do.”
The Bears will now be forced to replace Clark this season. Drew said the two prime candidates to take over Clark’s role are junior forward Flo Thamba and sophomore forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
Thamba played in 19 games last season, primarily as Freddie Gillespie’s backup. In limited minutes, Thamba averaged 2.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. Drew said Thamba is ready to take a major step forward this season.
“He’s been around. He knows our offense, knows our defense,” Drew said. “I feel like he’s ready to take a major step forward.”
Thamba said he worked on improving his game over the summer during quarantine and he’s ready to make the most out of this opportunity.
“I’ve improved my game a lot,” Thamba said. “It’s always coming in with a winning mindset, to be the best player you can ever be. Just having that mindset, the rest is going to take care of itself.”
Tchamwa Tchatchoua, the transfer from UNLV, will also look to fill in for Clark this season. Drew said Tchamwa Tchatchou’s work-ethic and athleticism makes him a special player that can contribute.
“He’s already very similar to Freddie. He worked extremely hard and really improved since being here,” Drew said. “Somebody who has such a great motor and such a great work-ethic and energy about him.”
Drew acknowledged that missing Clark will be a huge loss for the Bears this season, but he said that both Thamba and Tchamwa Tchatchoua will surprise people by how productive they will be this season.
“Both have been very efficient in practice as far as being finishers,” Drew said. “As Baylor nation gets a chance to watch them play, they’re going to be impressed just how much their skill sets have improved over the last year. That’s a direct attribute to their hard work and how much time they’ve put into the game.”
Baylor will open their season next Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. against No. 18 Arizona State. The game will be televised on ESPN.