Meet the mother behind Oklahoma State guard Stevie Clark and Douglass football standout Deondre Clark

The mother of the best basketball player and the best football player to come out of Oklahoma City the last two years has had a profile as high as her sons. But there's more to Dorshell Clark than meets the eye
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 1, 2014
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photo - Dorshell Clark talks with friends during her son's, Deondre Clark's, basketball game at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, January 28, 2014. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Dorshell Clark talks with friends during her son's, Deondre Clark's, basketball game at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, January 28, 2014. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

You think you've got Dorshell Clark all figured out.

The mother of the best basketball player and the best football player to come out of Oklahoma City the last two years has had a profile as high as her sons.

You first heard from her two Februarys ago when Oklahoma offered a basketball scholarship to son Stevie. Since then, she allowed him to go to prep school in Las Vegas, then put the kibosh on that odyssey and brought him back to Douglass High after a month. She sparred on air earlier this winter with a sports talk show host who'd bagged on Stevie after he was suspended at Oklahoma State.

Then last week, with signing day looming and Oklahoma and LSU football fans hanging on her every word, she made it known that she wants youngest son Deondre to play in Norman. She doesn't want him to go all the way to Baton Rouge, where he is verbally committed.

Shades of the Florida mama who absconded with her son's letter of intent last year because he wasn't going to sign with the school she wanted?

Or the Louisiana mama who touted LSU on national television moments after her son committed to Alabama?

Too involved. Meddling. Attention seeking.

You think you know Dorshell Clark?

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To know her, you need to come into a small waiting room during her lunch hour at the medical office where she's a nurse. Hear her talk about the rough years when she was raising four sons on her own. Listen to her explain how the bond between her and the boys helped them survive the recruiting bubble.

Some of the struggles bring her to tears.

“People that don't even know you can say whatever, not even thinking how we would feel,” she said. “My kids are like, ‘Mom, don't talk to people. They're just going to twist around what you say.' Well, it's just a chance we have to take.

“But at some point, you hope that somebody's going to tell the real you.”

* * *

Dorshell Antionette Clark was born to a single mom and raised by a doting grandmother.

Because her mom worked many hours trying to make ends meet, Dorshell spent a lot of time with her grandma. She had a good relationship with her mom. Still does. But when she was young, she moved in with Granny.

Dorshell remembers waking up, going out to the front porch and drinking coffee with Granny and old women from the neighborhood who gathered at the red brick house near the corner of NE 20th Street and Kelley Avenue.

Dorshell never learned how to roller skate or ride a bike; Granny never taught her.

“She taught me how to watch ‘I Love Lucy' and ‘M*A*S*H',” Dorshell said.

Granny never bit her tongue and passed that candor on to her daughter and her granddaughter. Granny never had any interest in sports, so neither did Dorshell. She became a cheerleader at Roosevelt Middle and Douglass High.

Her one foray into basketball ended quickly.

“I was kinda girlie,” Dorshell said. “I was in a game, and they threw the ball, and it hit my nail, and I was done.”

She chuckled.

“I don't think I was all that great,” she said. “So, it worked out. It gave me a good excuse to give up on that.”

Dorshell went to Langston, but before she finished her degree, she got pregnant, had son Dominique and dropped out of school.

She found an apartment with Dominique's father, who she eventually married. They had three more boys, D'angelo, Stevie and Deondre, before divorcing after nearly a decade together.

In those early years, Dorshell worked a year or so as a gas station attendant. But after the station got robbed, she realized she needed to do something different, something more.

She went to medical assistant school, then worked for OU Family Medicine for about 15 years.

She eventually returned to school to become a nurse, which led to work at Deaconess and Integris and in private practices.

She now works for Mercy Clinic Orthopedic Surgery.

“I've had to work all my life with the kids,” Dorshell said. “I have been on the go for a long time.”

It was just her and the boys for most of their childhoods. That came with challenges. There never seemed to be enough money. Or time. Or sleep.

“There wasn't a strategy,” Dorshell said of her early years as a parent. “I was young. I always listened to my mom and my grandma, so whatever they said I should do, I just did.

“It was a lot of survival.”

But difficult times and tough circumstances created an us-against-the-world mentality in Dorshell and the boys. They became a team.

The bond forged during those years was strong.

Dorshell calls her boys her best friends.

“I'd rather them look at me as a friend that they can come and talk to,” she said. “The society that we live in, you can't trust everybody ... so you open that line of communication. I've always been straight forward with them.

“Make no mistake, you get outta line, I'm comin' to get ya, but I always wanted them to feel like they could come and talk to me.”

* * *

Two summers ago, Stevie told his mom that he wanted to graduate early from Douglass.

Longtime coach Terry Long had left to coach his son at Mustang, and because the Clarks are close with Long — he went to high school with Dorshell — Stevie was distraught. He didn't want to play his senior season with a new coach.

He'd had enough.

Stevie wanted to graduate early, go to Baylor or Connecticut or Oklahoma State and start playing college basketball.

Dorshell wasn't so sure. He was already young for his class, so she didn't like the idea of him heading off to college.

They decided he'd stay at Douglass, but as the summer wore on, Stevie kept at the idea of graduating early. Dorshell finally told him to take two days and come up with a pro-and-con list.

“If you're able to show me something that I don't know,” she said, “then I'll listen.”

A couple days later, he proposed attending a first-year prep school in Las Vegas. Quest Preparatory Academy located 20 minutes from The Strip in the extreme northwest corner of the city was fledgling, but that would give Stevie a chance to leave a mark on the program.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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