Terrence Clarke sees himself as a ‘positionless’ play-maker
A couple of months ago, on the opening night of the spring’s only period for college basketball coaches to evaluate recruits with their travel league teams, John Calipari made sure to grab a front row seat for Terrence Clarke’s first game on the Nike circuit.
The 17-year-old didn’t disappoint.
In one sequence that lasted only about a minute, Clarke reeled off three straight slam dunks, each a little more ferocious than the one that came before it.
The second one brought a big smile to Calipari’s face.
The third one led to a loud yell from Clarke.
About a week later, the Boston area standout had a scholarship offer from Kentucky — only the second player from the 2021 class to land one.
“Just them offering me is fabulous,” Clarke said at the NBPA Top 100 Camp last week. “I’m honored, blessed and everything — with that being a blue blood school and a lot of pros going there.”
Listed at 6-foot-7 and ranked No. 2 in the 2021 recruiting class, Clarke can do a little bit of everything from the perimeter. His superlatives start with the scoring column.
“I think he’s one of the best pure scorers in high school basketball,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “His physical tools are all there, and I think his scoring package is really developing. He’s aggressive off the bounce. He’s made some adjustments to his shot mechanics, and he’s got a good-looking stroke. He’s still got a ways to go in terms of being a consistent long-range threat, but he’s headed in the right direction.
“This is just a guy with very good size, length, athleticism and scoring ability that can really impact the game with his natural ability to get buckets.”
Clarke averaged 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game through the three regular-season sessions on the Nike circuit. He made 22 of 63 three-pointers over 13 games — good enough for 33.8 percent from deep — but looked better shooting the ball at Top 100 Camp, where he was 49 percent from the floor and went 9-for-22 (40.9 percent) on threes.
A standout high school player at Brewster Academy (N.H.), Clarke has already proven his worth as a scorer. Lately, he’s been trying to sharpen his skills as a play-maker for others.
He represents the same Nike league squad that once featured Nick Richards, and he was second on that team in assists this spring.
“Everybody says I’m a wing. I think I’m a guard, because I can definitely get other people open,” Clarke said. “With me driving into the lane, when (defenders) come to me, I can kick it. I think I’m a good passer. I just want to show that I’m really a play-maker and I can get everybody else better.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to play as a point guard, a position so many other prospects his age with anything resembling the necessary skill set for that spot aspire to be.
“Whatever I can fit into and is going to be best for me, I think I can do,” Clarke said. “Playing the ‘1’, ‘2’ or ‘3’ — whatever is going to help me to show my best ability and my game — I think I can do it.”
Daniels said college coaches will likely want Clarke to focus primarily on scoring at the next level — “A guy like him that’s naturally gifted as a scorer, I’d want him to score first,” he said — but also noted that he “certainly” has the ability to be a secondary ball handler on a college team, a trait that Calipari looks for in his backcourt players.
Clarke said he’s not close to cutting down his lengthy list of school offers just yet, though it appears Kentucky is already well-positioned among the frontrunners. He was in Lexington last fall for UK’s Big Blue Madness, and Wildcats assistant Tony Barbee reached out this past weekend, the first time that college coaches were permitted to directly contact 2021 recruits.
Whether Clarke actually stays in that 2021 class is the biggest question right now.
Many recruiting observers expect him to make a jump to 2020. Clarke turns 18 years old in September and the Herald-Leader has been told he has a clear academic path to reclassification. He acknowledged last week that 2020 is a possibility.
“I’ll probably explore it soon,” Clarke told the Herald-Leader.
Reclassification would also allow him to be eligible for the 2021 NBA Draft.
Along with college coaches, NBA scouts were permitted to observe a portion of Top 100 Camp last week. Clarke was well aware of that.
“First impression is the best impression, so I just try to go out there and show them everything I’ve got,” he said. “My skill, my play-making ability, everything I can do on the court. That’s the main thing — I just want to show them how I can fit in the league, any style.”