When it comes to raw talent there won’t be many freshmen in the country that can match Terrence Clarke. The 6’7” Shooting Guard from Brewster Academy has been on the national radar since he played his first high school game. After committing to Kentucky back in September of 2019, Clarke was ranked as high as #2 in the country before settling in at #8 on the 247 Composite Rankings.
As usual, I will show some highlights and breakdown what I think of Clarke’s game. I watched three full games of his on film this week and surfed through countless highlight films. I’ve already profiled Keion Brooks, Davion Mintz, Olivier Sarr, Isaiah Jackson, Devin Askew, and Lance Ware so make sure to catch up on all of those if you need to as well. Besides Brooks and Sarr, I feel like I have seen more of Terrence Clarke than anyone else on the 2020-2021 roster. I really went down the rabbit hole this week because he is a guy who will need to be a star in order for Kentucky to have a chance to cut down the nets in early April.
Terrence Clarke is a scorer in the truest sense of the word. He can score it in bunches from all three levels and certainly isn’t shy when it comes to inserting his will when he has the ball in his hands. He is a threat to launch a deep three, shoot a step back off the dribble, and will relentlessly drive it at you and penetrate the defense. When he wants to get to the paint it is nearly impossible to stop him because of his mixture of length and athletic ability. While Clarke isn’t a knockdown shooter, and I’ll dive into his skill set more below, he has a good looking stroke and can fill it up in a hurry when he gets hot.
For as electric as he is as an offensive talent though, I have to admit that I have some concerns. When watching his game film he showcases some worrisome poor body language and takes plays off at times when he is clearly upset with his teammates and/or coach. This isn’t something I would normally call out about a kid, but when you are going to be relying as heavily on someone as the Wildcats will be on Clarke, it must be pointed out. He reacts too negatively when things don’t go his way and he lets his offensive output, or lack thereof, dictate his effort.
After watching several of his games on film I knew I needed to address the effort and body language concerns, but I am also not necessarily concerned about it in the long-term. Coach Calipari simply won’t accept that sort of on-court behavior and I think that Clarke will grow out of a lot of that immaturity just through the practice season. We have to remember, myself included, that this is a kid who should just be entering his senior season of high school, so it would be unfair to expect him to be a finished, polished product. I am sure he will experience some ups and downs throughout the season, some of which may drive some fans crazy, but there is so much talent in Terrence Clarke that UK fans should be extremely excited to have him in Lexington this season.
Attacking the Basket
I have alluded to Terrence Clarke’s offensive skillset already, but as we dive into the breakdown you have to start with his ability to attack the basket off the dribble. When he wants to penetrate the defense and get into the paint he is almost impossible to stop. He is a good, not great, ball-handler, but with his combination of length and athletic ability he can get by just about any defender. Clarke has a full package of crafty dribble moves, change of pace, straight-line quickness, and long strides to get himself past the defender.
Clarke finishes almost exclusively with his right hand, something he will need to continue to work on as he transitions to the college level and beyond. However, his extreme length (6’11” wingspan) allows him to get his shoulders beyond his defender and reach out to finish in creative ways with his right hand at the rim.
He also has a great intermediate scoring game with a floater that will remind Kentucky fans of Tyrese Maxey. That floater is very useful because it allows him to score without having to dribble a couple of extra times, but also keeps him from having to finish through larger defenders at the rim. Despite his length and athleticism, Clarke’s lack of strength holds him back right now from being a high percentage finisher at the rim. Over the course of the 2019 EYBL Circuit, Clarke was just a 40.9% shooter from the field. Some of that is his shot selection (which we will touch on a bit more shortly) but it also comes from his struggles finishing at the rim.
If Clarke can become a more efficient scorer around the basket he will have a chance to be an All-SEC performer and will be a sure-fire lottery pick. Playing alongside guys like Devin Askew, B.J. Boston, Keion Brooks, and, hopefully, Olivier Sarr should keep driving lanes open and allow for Clarke to get into the paint consistently. As he bulks up and continues to work on finishing at the rim he will have a chance to be a high-volume scorer that is among the SEC’s leaders in points per game.
Terrence Clarke is definitely at his best when he can attack the basket downhill and utilize his athleticism to score in the paint. However, he is a dangerous, if still inconsistent, scoring threat from 3-point range as well. Clarke is definitely a streaky outside shooter, but he can really get going. He has the ability to knock down shots off the catch or after breaking you down off the dribble. He is aggressive and will not turn them down when he has space.
When looking at his form, Clarke loads the ball very low, oftentimes around his waist which means the ball has to travel a long way before he gets to his release point. This long track into his shot can make his release point a little inconsistent, but for the most part, he has pretty good mechanics and a fluid shooting motion. Despite bringing the ball up from his waist to his shooting pocket, Clarke’s release itself is pretty quick which allows him to squeeze them off even when he is being guarded.
Coach Calipari may try to reign in Clarke’s shot selection a little bit, especially at the beginning of the season, but he is a kid that will absolutely get hot a few times over the course of the season. For example, just based on his shooting stroke alone, I think he is a better shooter than Tyrese Maxey and I expect him to shoot a better percentage and make more 3’s than Maxey did last season.
In order for Terrence Clarke to reach his full potential in Lexington, he will need to be a guy that makes, on average, one three-pointer per game at the very least. I really don’t think that will be a problem because he will have a couple of games where he makes three or four. He is a streaky shooter but isn’t shy about getting them off and has pretty smooth mechanics. If he can improve his shot selection just a little bit and shoot the ones that come to him in rhythm within the structure of the offense, I think he will become a real threat from the perimeter.
This kid is a scorer through and through. There will be some headaches and probably some games that leave fans frustrated after a 2/12 performance. However, I would be shocked if Terrence Clarke doesn’t score 30 in a game at some point this season. He is just too gifted and too talented. Fans will need to live with the roller-coaster a little bit because Clarke is probably always going to be a guy that takes a little bit off of the table even while bringing so much to it.
I’ve said it several times now, but it can’t be overstated that Terrence Clarke is a scorer first and foremost. He is relentless off of the dribble attacking the basket and will always be thinking about scoring when he has the ball in his hands. With the way that Clarke penetrates the defense it also allows him the opportunity to make plays for his teammates. I’ve already touched on the fact that he is a good, but not great ball-handler, but he does handle it well enough to be a real threat off the bounce because he can score it from anywhere. When he attracts that much attention there are bound to be open teammates.
Clarke’s vision is excellent and allows him to make some highlight-reel worthy passes, as you will see in the video above. Just like with his shot selection, he can get himself in trouble at times by trying to do a little too much or trying to make a play that simply isn’t there. However, he is great at seeing a play develop and reading the defense to make the right pass at the right time. He isn’t a guy that will post a ton of assists as a Freshman, but he certainly has the capability to make plays for others. Clarke has the ball in his hands so much that it is important that he not be one-dimensional with the ball as a playmaker and he definitely passes that test.
For these final several clips I just threw together some extras to showcase the outstanding athleticism that Terrence Clarke possesses. It manifests itself in much more than the SportsCenter Top 10 worthy dunks too. He is a solid offensive rebounder and should really improve in that area as he learns to play with a more consistent motor. Also, he can jump the passing lanes and get deflections because of his quick-burst speed and insanely long arms.
His athleticism is what makes him so versatile on the offensive end of the floor in general. He can elevate up over defenders for an off the dribble pull-up 3, he can rise above and shoot the floater as he attacks the basket, or he can take it all the way to the rim and dare you to jump with him and attempt to block the shot. His game needs some refining, but the athleticism and length can’t be taught.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am pumping the brakes a little bit on the Terrence Clarke hype. After breaking down his film I think he is an incredibly talented player that could be a special this season. However, I wouldn’t feel comfortable relying on that too heavily just yet. He has an inconsistent motor and showcases too much negative body language on the court when things are not going his way. Like I’ve already mentioned, I truly think a lot of that will be coached out of him, but we should expect to see it a couple of times during his Freshman season. Again, this is a young kid who would just be a Senior in high school if he hadn’t reclassified to the 2020 class.
With those small worries being voiced, the other side of the coin is extremely exciting. Terrence Clarke has as much raw ability as we have seen in Lexington in a while. He is an even better scorer than Tyrese Maxey was last season, if for no other reason than he is 6’7” and a much better athlete. If he can become a little bit more consistent of a shooter and improve his at-rim finishing, he has a real chance to be a 15-18 point per game scorer for the Wildcats this year. He is just that good offensively. He will have some growing pains and we need to strap in for a couple of bad, frustrating games, but there will be some awfully fun high points, as well.
There is a reason why Clarke is a Top 10 recruit in the class and a guy that NBA teams are already targeting in the lottery of the 2021 NBA Draft. He has the athleticism, height, and length of an All-Star guard. If his development takes a little bit longer we are still looking at a double-digit scorer and electrifying player. However, if things click early on, Terrence Clarke could be a legitimate All-American candidate by the end of the season.
The moral of the story is that fans need to enjoy Terrence Clarke for what he is this season. Along with B.J. Boston (his breakdown will come in the next couple of weeks), Clarke is one of the highest-rated recruits that Coach Calipari has landed recently. He is a dynamic scorer and an electrifying player. He may make you want to pull your hair out at times, but he is also going to help this Kentucky team win a heck of a lot of games this season. So, sit back, try to relax, and enjoy the ride!