LEXINGTON, Ky. — Former University of Kentucky basketball player Terrence Clarke was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles on Thursday, the L.A. Police Department confirmed.
Clarke was the only person in the car when it crashed at 2:10 p.m. Pacific Time.
Clarke, a native of Boston, Mass., was 19 years old. Clarke is survived by his parents, Osmine Clarke and Adrian Briggs, and three siblings, Tatyana, Gavin and Madison. He was pursuing a degree in communications at UK.
“I am absolutely gutted and sick tonight,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said in a UK news release late Thursday night. “A young person who we all love has just lost his life too soon, one with all of his dreams and hopes ahead of him. Terrence Clarke was a beautiful kid, someone who owned the room with his personality, smile and joy. People gravitated to him, and to hear we have lost him is just hard for all of us to comprehend right now. We are all in shock.
“Terrence’s teammates and brothers loved him and are absolutely devastated. They know we are here for them for whatever they need.
“I am on my way to Los Angeles to be with his mother and his brother to help wherever I can. This will be a difficult period for all those who know and love Terrence, and I would ask that everyone take a moment tonight to say a prayer for Terrence and his family. May he rest in peace.”
At the time of the wreck, Clarke was driving well over the speed limit in a 2021 Hyundai Genesis, according to Sgt. John Matassa with the LAPD Valley Traffic Division. He was not wearing a seat belt. The accident took place in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth, Calif.
Clarke was driving southbound on Winnetka Avenue, a major north-south thoroughfare that’s a divided roadway with more than one lane in each direction.
The accident happened at the intersection of another major roadway, Nordhoff Street.
“He did run a red light, and was traveling at a high rate of speed,” Matassa said in a phone interview. “He collided with a vehicle that was making a left turn and he continued and hit a street light pole and ultimately hit a block wall.”
Matassa said a surveillance camera at a nearby residence substantiated those details.
Matassa said Clarke’s car was traveling 80 mph in a 45 mph zone and that weather was not a factor.
“We are stunned by this sudden, heartbreaking tragedy,” UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart said in the news release. “Terrence was a young man who was so full of life and so full of promise. We hurt and grieve with his family, his friends, and his teammates and coaches, and our prayers are with all of them in this unimaginable loss.”
The 6-foot-7 Clarke, whose one season at Kentucky was limited to eight games because of injuries, entered his name in the NBA draft last month and was training in Los Angeles in preparation for pre-draft workouts.
Clarke suffered an ankle injury in December. He started six of the eight games in which he played. Clarke averaged 9.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. He was injured Dec. 19 in a loss to North Carolina, played 16 scoreless minutes in a loss to Louisville a week later and did not appear again until Kentucky’s Southeastern Conference tournament game against Mississippi State. Clarke came off the bench to contribute two points and three assists in nine minutes as Kentucky’s season ended in a 74-73 defeat.
“As an adolescent, having the privilege to put on the Kentucky uniform and play in front of the BBN was always a lifelong goal of mine,” Clarke said in a UK news release upon announcing his intention to enter the NBA draft. “Although it was hindered due to things out of my own control, the experience is something I will keep with me forever. I have grown a lot with this experience and I will never take it for granted.”
Clarke was projected as a second-round draft pick in a compilation of 2021 mock drafts created by HoopsHype.com after the NCAA Tournament. Before his injury, Clarke was projected to be a lottery pick in the first round. ESPN had him ranked as the No. 72 prospect for this year’s NBA draft.
“This was not an easy decision for Terrence, who I admire for how he handled adversity, stuck with it and battled back to be there for his teammates in an SEC tournament game,” Calipari said at the time of Clarke’s declaration. “Terrence has unbelievable ability and upside, and my only disappointment for him is that he didn’t have a chance to build on what he started because of the leg injury.”
The Klutch Sports agency announced this week that it had signed Clarke as a client.
Clarke committed to play for Kentucky before his final year of high school at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. He was viewed as one of the top basketball prospects in the 2020 class and came to UK as one of the program’s highest-ranked recruits in years.
“Coach Cal kept it real with me,” Clarke said at his announcement ceremony in September of 2019. “He always told me since day one, when he was talking to me, ‘If you come to Kentucky, you’re gonna have to work.’ And that’s one of the things I need. I need a coach that’s going to push me, make me a better player and person. And, me going to Kentucky, I can just elevate my game to the next level. And get to the next level.”
Before his only season at Kentucky, Clarke spoke about his hopes, dreams and goals and making the transition from high school to college. “Honestly, it’s fun,” he said. “Growing up, you always thought of these situations.
“I always grew up watching basketball and watching guys on the court do these kinds of things (like interviews). So, me being in this position, I’m just taking full advantage of it and having as much fun as possible. I mean, the transition is kind of weird because I haven’t done it before, but I’m just trying to have as much fun as I can because this is a lifetime dream for me really.”
Clarke is the second young, former UK basketball player to die this year.
Ben Jordan, who came to the Wildcats as a baseball player but ended up playing a season with the basketball team in 2019-20, died in January at age 22.