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Apr 11, 2024 | Blog


By: Josh Burkholder, Director of Athletics Communication

For most families, having just one high-level athlete compete in college can be very rare. Multiple collegiate athletes from the same set of siblings are obviously even more uncommon. Going even further, it is nearly unheard of for three siblings of different ages to compete collegiately, play the same sport, play at the same school and, most uniquely—play together at the same time. 

Despite the minuscule odds of this happening, that exact scenario is playing out here in Nampa during the 2023-24 women’s basketball season. From just down the road in Melba, Idaho, the three Clark sisters—Emma, Kate and Kendall—have teamed up this year to not only play together but also each be in the Nighthawks’ starting lineup together for 12 of 15 games so far. 

Emma is the oldest and a senior playing in her fifth season on the squad, having earned an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19-shortened 2020-21 season. Each sister is separated in age by about two years, with Kate as a junior this year and Kendall in her first collegiate season as a freshman. Through 15 games, Emma is averaging seven points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Kate is scoring 4.8 points per game and pulling down 4.1 boards per game. Kendall has had a breakout freshman season so far, second on the team with 11.8 points per game, averaging 4.9 rebounds and shooting 53.1% from the field. 

With Emma and Kendall four grades apart, this is the first opportunity for all three sisters to play together on the same team. Kate, in the middle, was able to play two seasons with each of the others at Melba High School, but Emma and Kendall had never played on the court together before this season. All three enthusiastically say that the experience has been incredibly fun. 

“When we’re all out there together, we found that we could trust each other immediately,” said Emma. “There’s a sense of relief when I’m out there either with one or both of them. I just know their style of play and that they are going to work hard and do what is best for the team.” 

“I love all of my teammates, but there is just something different about having your sisters out there, a different kind of love,” added Kate. “You know that they are going to have your back no matter what.” 

“It has been incredible not just on the court but off the court as well,” said Kendall. “It’s been great because coming in as a freshman, I already had two built-in best friends at the school and on the team. I didn’t have to worry about fitting in or meeting a lot of new people and searching for friends. I knew that from the start, I had two people to help me adjust to college life and college basketball.” 

Emma and Kendall have enjoyed getting to play together for the first time in this unlikely circumstance. “It’s been amazing to be able to team up with Kendall and watch her grow and improve,” said Emma. “Experiencing her stepping into a really important role with the team right away has been awesome, and I’m so glad that I have been able to watch it happen firsthand while still with the team.” 

“Obviously, I grew up watching Emma play all the time,” said Kendall. “From an off-the-court perspective, she always looked really fast. But now that I’m on the court with her, you realize she is ten times faster than she looks. Every loose ball, every hustle play, you know that Emma is going to be there making an impact.” 

The Clark sisters are somewhat of local legends in small school Idaho basketball, having helped Melba High School to great success over the last eight years, during which the Mustangs have always featured at least one sibling. With right around 300 students, Melba is in Idaho’s 2A classification and has reached the 2A state tournament in each of the last six seasons. They were the state runner-up in 2019 when Emma was a senior and Kate a sophomore, won the school’s first state championship in 2021 when Kate was a senior and Kendall a sophomore, and then won the state title again last year in 2023 during Kendall’s senior campaign. All three earned First Team All-State honors, with both Kate and Kendall being named the 2A Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year during their senior seasons. 

It might come as no surprise that the Clark sisters would grow up to be great athletes, as both of their parents were collegiate athletes themselves. Their father, Casey, played football at Whitworth University, and their mother, Amy, played volleyball at Whitworth as well. They also have a pair of aunts who played basketball at a high level, with Jenny Binford playing for both NNU and Boise State and Tricia Binford playing for Boise State and professionally for the WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers. Tricia is also the current head coach of Montana State women’s basketball. 

Coming from an athletic family, the sisters played multiple sports growing up all the way through high school, including Emma and Kendall winning multiple individual state championships in track & field and Kendall receiving First Team All-State honors for volleyball as a senior. Emma also continued to compete in outdoor track & field for multiple years at NNU. While Kate and Kendall followed in Emma’s footsteps by playing basketball, Emma is not really sure why she chose to play other than just wanting to do as many sports as possible. 

“We lived up in Moscow [Idaho] when we were little, and I do remember starting to play AAU basketball around fourth grade,” said Emma. “I don’t remember our parents pushing us towards one specific sport, but we all ended up getting really good at basketball.” 

“However, Emma and I were scared for Kendall for a bit because she wasn’t really into basketball at first,” added Kate. “She was more into cheer and gymnastics when she was young, but eventually came around.” 

Simply due to the nature of being siblings so close together in age, one might assume that there could have been a lot of fighting growing up between the three, but they assert that they have always had a great relationship and enjoyed growing up close together. Sure, there were some small squabbles here and there, but for the most part, they have gotten along and complement each other well. 

“Emma has always been the peacemaker and definitely fills some of the stereotypes of being the oldest child,” said Kate. “She is very responsible and is kind of like our mom at times on campus; she cooks dinner for us all the time.” 

“Kate has always been a challenger or one to push a few buttons, but in a good way,” said Emma. “That has helped her a lot in being the best she can both on and off the court. Kendall has always been a free spirit and makes her own way, which could be attributed to some of the stereotypes of a youngest child.” 

Being the oldest, Emma was the one who had to make the first choice about where to go to college. A huge part of what drew her to NNU, besides not having to go very far from home, was the opportunity that she was given to compete in both basketball and track & field. 

“I particularly enjoyed the possibility of being a dual-sport athlete in college,” said Emma. “I remember Coach Steele coming to watch a few of my games, and I really respected him and what he had to say. I also knew Elpidia Allen, the assistant coach at the time, since she was good friends with our aunt, so it was just a comfortable choice that proved to be a great decision.” 

Kate and Kendall obviously had the draw of Emma already at NNU, which helped in their college search. “Because of Emma, NNU had been in our family’s life for a while,” said Kate. “Then COVID hit just after my junior basketball season, which made my recruiting process unique. I couldn’t go on any official visits, but I knew that NNU was a great place from what Emma told me and what I had learned about Coach Steele, so it became the top choice.” 

“Emma and Kate are two of the biggest reasons I chose to come to NNU,” said Kendall. “Originally, I wasn’t so sure about following in their footsteps and was considering a few other places. Of course, I had been on campus multiple times for their games and other things, but before I came on an official visit my junior year, I had never been around the team and gotten to experience campus from a student’s perspective. After that visit, I realized that I actually really liked what NNU had to offer and decided that staying close to home was what I wanted to do.” 

Kate and Kendall both credit Emma with helping them immensely once they got to campus. Emma and Kate are both nursing majors, which is hard to navigate while being a college athlete. Nursing is one of the more demanding undergraduate majors due to additional requirements like clinicals. It takes a special type of person to be able to succeed academically while also performing well athletically. They have both done admirably, with Emma a two-time GNAC All-Academic Team honoree and Kate earning the award last season when she was eligible for the honor for the first time. 

“I don’t know how far into the nursing major I would have gotten without Emma there to answer all of my questions and show me ways to help balance the rigors and expectations of both basketball and nursing,” said Kate. “She probably gets annoyed with me sometimes, but she will always take the time to help make my schedule efficient and explain things that helped her navigate any issues or conflicts.” 

While Kendall did not follow in her sisters’ footsteps completely, as she is majoring in English with a minor in literature, she also praises the way Emma has helped her navigate college life. 

“She’s honestly just kind of been my second mom,” said Kendall. “Earlier in the season, I was having a bit of trouble adjusting to missing so many classes due to our demanding travel schedule along with the difference in time commitment in going from high school to being a college athlete. I went to her about it, and she gave me great advice and helped me work through it all to find the best way to handle the practice, classes and travel all at the same time.” 

Back to the present season on the court, the trio will now look to help lead the Nighthawks back to the GNAC Tournament after NNU missed it last year for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign. As of the end of January, the Nighthawks are 4-4 in conference play, sitting fifth in the GNAC standings with the top six teams qualifying for the postseason tournament. A lot can happen in the final 10 games of the regular season, and the Clarks hope that they can continue to thrive together on the court and rise up a few spots in the conference standings before the regular season is over. 

Regardless of what happens, however, all three are incredibly grateful for this season that they have been able to spend together in such a unique way. They could not be more proud of what they have and will continue to accomplish both on and off the court, and memories are being created that will surely last a lifetime. 

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