During the first couple weeks of the school year last August, Brenda Griggs noticed that Stephen Clark was having a little too much fun while she was trying to teach her English class.
Nothing outlandish or disrespectful. Just typical behavior of a teenage boy with a splash of class clown mixed into his personality.
Clark, known by most as Stevie, is a 16-year-old junior at Douglass High School. He attends Griggs' advanced-placement senior English course — and there's nothing typical about that.
Only about five juniors in the school take the class, and none of the others are being nationally recruited as a college basketball prospect like Clark.
Numbers matter in basketball. When Clark scored 65 points in a game last month, it was big news that brought him a lot of attention.
But another number — his 4.0 grade-point average — means just as much as any of his statistics on the basketball court.
Clark's passion to excel, whether in basketball or academics, is strongly founded in his competitive nature.
It started at home, competing against his three brothers in both arenas.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be the smartest person in the house,” Clark said. “That way, I could mess with my brothers and tell them I'm smarter than them. And maybe that would make them want to be better academically, too.
“I'm not gonna play basketball for the rest of my life, so if I go to a good college and get a good education, that way, I'll have something to fall back on.”
Back in August, when Clark was cutting up in Griggs' classroom, the situation was remedied quickly — once his mother, Dorshell Clark heard about it.
“She was up here that day, and the three of us talked it out,” Griggs said. “He promised he wouldn't do it anymore, and he didn't.”
Dorshell is the backbone for good behavior and hard work, not only for Stephen but also his three brothers, Dominique, DeAngelo and Deondre.
“Sometimes it was like she was the toughest mom in the world,” Dominique Clark said with a laugh. “But you know it's because she wants the best for you and she loves you.
“She has the last say-so on everything, but without her, we wouldn't be where we are now.”
The importance of doing things right was laid as Dorshell's foundation by her grandmother, who raised her.
“She required that of me, my mother required it of me, so I require it of them,” she said. “My grandmother always taught me to be a leader, not a follower. She always taught me to pray. She always monitored my friends.”
Dorshell has worked hard to pass those valuable traits on, despite facing the challenges of being a single mother of four boys — two in high school and two in college.