By David Bernal
MINNEAPOLIS - Fil-American Kihei Clark tallied only three points and four assists in the 2019 NCAA Final men's basketball final, but his defensive bite and stabilizing presence on offense helped the Virginia Cavaliers hoist the school's first-ever national title following an 85-77 overtime over the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
When the smoke cleared at the U.S. Bank stadium, the 5-foot-9, 155-pound freshman spoke to SPIN.ph and talked about, among other things, his appetite for chicken adobo and his exploding Instagram account.
Here's the champ. In his own words.
SPIN.ph: You're the first Filipino-American to win an NCAA championship since Raymond Townsend. What does that mean to you?
Kihei Clark: It means a lot to know that I have Filipinos back home that support me. And to know that that is part of my culture means a lot.
SPIN.ph: First year in the program and you're a national champion. How does that feel?
Kihei Clark: It's an incredible experience and I would have never imagined it. It feels great to not only finish out this year like this and how some of these guys have been through last year (first-ever No. 1 seed to lose to a 16th seed in the first round). We really carried that through this year and had a chip on our shoulder. We played like we had something to prove.
SPIN.ph: You played 33 minutes tonight, a majority of which was spent chasing Matt Mooney, who was held to 10 points. Were you mentally prepared how active he was going to be?
Kihei Clark: Absolutely. When you spend time in practice going against guys like Ty (Jerome) and (Brandon) Key you learn how to track guys well. But I definitely knew coming into the game how active he was going to be and did try my best to stay with him.
SPIN.ph: You had about 220 Instagram followers prior to the Final Four and it jumped to several thousands since then. What has that been like becoming to celebrity almost overnight especially among the Filipino community?
Kihei Clark: It means a lot just to know how many support me. (Editor's note: As of press time, Clark's Instagram followers have reached 21, 200)
SPIN.ph: What's your favorite Filipino dish?
KIhei Clark: Chicken adobo
SPIN.ph: Las Vegas oddsmakers have already installed the University of Virginia as the favorite to repeat next year. Can we expect to see you back to help defend your school's title?
Kihei Clark: Absolutely. I wouldn't see why not.