Gabe Palmquist-Clark enters the basketball gym at Lane Community College every day. When he walks through the doors, the stress of being a college student and the hardships of life at home cease to coexist or define him.
It’s been this way since he was a kid.
With his brother out skateboarding and his mom at work, Palmquist-Clark, a hardworking person by nature, needed an outlet. One day he picked up a basketball and walked to Duniway Elementary School in Portland, Ore., and started shooting. For hours, every day, he would shoot baskets, escaping from whatever was going on in his life at the time. His love for the sport was just flourishing.
After playing four years at Cleveland High School, Palmquist-Clark decided to attend the University of Oregon and major in sports business. However, basketball never seemed too far off his mind. He reached out to local college and high school basketball teams with a simple pitch — let me help.
“My pitch to the Oregon basketball team was ‘Let me help out with the program,’” he said. “That was the same for everywhere I applied. I didn’t envision being a coach a year later.”
Palmquist-Clark accepted a role as a student manager with the men’s basketball team at Lane. He excelled in that role, and a year later he was named an assistant coach with the Titans, all at the age of 20.
“I think he’s getting invaluable experience doing what he’s doing,” Bruce Chavka, the head coach at Lane Community College said. “He’s getting better everyday.”
It’s an interesting dynamic, having a coach that is the same age as his players, but the team respects him as a coach in the gym and a peer outside of it.
“It’s a little weird,” redshirt sophomore guard Alec Breazeale said. “He’s young, but he has a high IQ for the game. Even though he’s young people still respect him and he’s still a good coach.”
Bearing the responsibilities of a college student and a college basketball coach hasn’t been easy on Palmquist-Clark.
“It’s ridiculous. I’m getting run-ragged,” Palmquist-Clark said. “It’s quite the balancing act. I don’t have a lot of free time. It’s really stressful.”
Amid the stress of his daily schedule, he knows that he’s experiencing success as a college basketball coach. He enjoys the way his life has gone, knowing that it could have been a lot different.
Jennifer Palmquist, Palmquist-Clark’s mother, adopted him shortly after his birth. Along with Palmquist-Clark’s grandmother, Palmquist raised him and his brother despite being a single mother. Without her and the support she’s shown him throughout his life, Palmquist-Clark doesn’t know where he’d be today.
“I have the best mom in the world,” Palmquist-Clark said with a smile on his face. “Without her or her support, I don’t do anything with my life. Not a day goes by where I don’t think where I’d be without her.”
Even with his escape to basketball, life still goes on and things happen. Recently, Palmquist-Clark picked up a phone call from his brother to learn some devastating news. His grandmother, who helped raise him, had just passed away. The news crushed him, but he had to be strong.
“You can’t be the victim of your situation,” Palmquist-Clark said. “The world keeps turning. When things aren’t going quite your way, you got to keep turning with the rest of the world. If you don’t turn with it, you’re going to miss out.”
This hardworking mentality has gotten him this far, a place where his possibilities are endless.
“I’m excited for him,” Chavka said. “Hopefully he can obtain his goals and move on to bigger and better things. Sky’s the limit for him.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @jhoyt42