Former Kentucky basketball guard Terrence Clarke dies in car crash

Jon Hale
Louisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON — Former Kentucky basketball guard Terrence Clarke died Thursday in a car crash in Los Angeles.

Clarke was 19 years old.

“I am absolutely gutted and sick tonight,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a news release from UK. “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."

Clarke was driving south on Winnetka Avenue when he ran a red light at a high rate of speed and collided into another vehicle that was getting ready to make a left turn, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Clarke was the only occupant in his vehicle which then struck a streetlight pole and ended up at rest into a block wall.

The incident was recorded on a surveillance video at a nearby home. Clarke was transported to Northridge Hospital for his injuries. He was then pronounced dead at the hospital.

The Los Angeles Police Department did not report any injuries in the other vehicle involved in the collision. 

Several of Clarke's former Kentucky teammates began posting condolence messages onto their personal social media accounts as the news began to circulate Thursday evening.

"Lil bruh, I love you forever. ... Rest easy," UK forward Olivier Sarr posted on Instagram with a picture of him and Clarke together. 

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens ended his postgame news conference early after his team's Thursday game after hearing reports of Clarke's death. Clarke grew up in Boston, and Stevens said while he had not met Clarke, his son looked up to him as a local high school basketball star.

The NBA draft prospect had reportedly left a workout at the time of the crash. Only a day before, Klutch Sports confirmed that Clarke and former UK teammate Brandon Boston had joined the sports agency as clients in its 2021 NBA draft class.

"We are saddened and devastated by the tragic loss of Terrence Clarke, Terrence was an incredible, hard-working young man," Klutch CEO Rich Paul said in a statement. "He was excited for what was ahead of him and ready to fulfill his dreams. Our prayers go out to Terrence and his family, who ask for privacy during this difficult time."

Report:Orlando Antigua likely to return to Kentucky basketball staff

The Boston native declared for the NBA draft in March after playing in just eight games for Kentucky this season due to an ankle injury. A former consensus top-10 ranked recruit, Clarke averaged 9.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and two assists per game while starting 6 of 8 games for Kentucky. He was projected as a likely second-round pick in this summer's NBA draft.

"No words can come close to conveying how said and heartbroken I am that Terrence Clarke is gone," said new Central Michigan coach Tony Barbee, who recruited Clarke to Kentucky as an assistant coach. "I’ve known him since he was in the seventh grade, and even at that age it was clear he was a smart, funny, competitive and extremely talented human being with a bright future. The world lost a beautiful soul today."

Clarke's freshman season was derailed by an ankle injury that sidelined him in December. He missed the entire regular-season portion of the Southeastern Conference schedule but returned to play nine minutes off the bench in Kentucky's SEC Tournament loss to Mississippi State, which ended up being the final game of a disappointing 9-16 season.

"It's a heck of a thing that he wanted to try to play to help our team," UK coach John Calipari said after that game. "He knew if we had four games in four days, he was going to be needed."

Clarke's death marks the second tragedy for the Kentucky basketball program in less than a year.

Former UK basketball walk-on and baseball pitcher Ben Jordan died in January. Clarke's and Jordan's time on the basketball team did not overlap, but they shared several teammates and coaches.

“We are stunned by this sudden, heartbreaking tragedy,” UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in the 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."

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ