On Saturday one of the biggest dominoes in all of high school basketball will fall, and one the best players in America will have his college home.
The question: What school will the player pick? And what year will he enroll in college?
That’s because at 1 p.m. ET, Terrence Clarke, the No. 3 ranked player in the high school class of 2021 according to 247 Sports, will make his college decision. Clarke has a list of six schools. But considering that he has only visited Kentucky and Boston College, it feels like things are trending towards the Wildcats. That’s especially true when you consider that 100 percent of Clarke’s 247 Sports Crystal Ball picks have him selecting the Wildcats as well. And if you’re into reading tea leaves, Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway cancelled his visit to see Clarke earlier this week. Just a hunch, but – at the sake of not trying to sound like a total jerk – I’m guessing it wasn’t Boston College that Hardaway was ceding Clarke to.
So yes, all signs point towards Kentucky, and it’s also no secret that Clarke is trying to reclassify into the class of 2020. Meaning that whoever Clarke picks could be getting a cornerstone commitment for next season.
Therefore, with his commitment eminent, now seems like a good time to take a look at who Clarke is, and how – at least in theory – he could fit in the Wildcats. To be clear, I’m not claiming to have any inside information that says he will end up in Lexington. But with a commitment coming in hours and every logical sign pointing towards Kentucky, it only makes sense to take a look at how the two potentially go together.
After seeing Clarke several times this summer, and interviewing him one-on-one at the Pangos All-American camp back in early June, here are some thoughts:
Who is He?
By now, the vital details on Clarke’s background have been shared over and over again, so it’s not as though I’m breaking a ton of new ground here. However, here are some quick essentials for those who don’t necessarily follow recruiting closely or simply have been paying attention.
Clarke is a big, hyper-athletic, 6-7 wing who is originally from Boston, but played last year for prep powerhouse Brewster Academy up in New Hampshire, where he helped the school to a Prep School National Championship. He played on a loaded roster that included all sorts of talented players, everyone from Jalen Lecque (who went to the NBA following his prep school season and signed with the Phoenix Suns), Alonzo Gaffney (now at Ohio State), Joel Brown (Cal), and Jamal Mashburn Jr. And despite being just a sophomore in grade standing, Clarke was the leading scorer on that squad and arguably their best player.
Not bad for a kid who was two years younger than some of his teammates.
Tell Me About His Game:
In terms of his game, if you’re looking for a comparison, Clarke actually told me – and don’t get mad when I tell you this Kentucky fans –that he has actually watched a lot of Penny Hardaway video on YouTube, and tries to emulate his game after him.
Again, please don’t shoot the messenger here, but here is what he said in an exclusive interview with KSR.
“I’m a 6’7 playmaker,” he said. “I get others involved while getting myself involved. I can create shots off the dribble, off the catch. I can score at all three levels.”
While I agree with the whole “ability to score on all three levels” front, I don’t necessarily think that his game reminds me of Penny Hardaway. Hardaway was a much more traditional point guard. Instead, Clarke is, as he said, a playmaker. But more of a combo guard or wing in my opinion.
But man, oh MAN is he a good one.
Despite being one of the younger players at the Pangos All-American Camp (the first place I saw him this summer) he largely dominated, showing a versatile game which – as he described – he was able to score at all three levels. He was also one of the more athletic players there, and was super bouncy for a kid who stands 6-7. I honestly think I remember him putting the ball between his legs on a dunk, but I could be making it up.
Still, the fact that it could have happened, and seems conceivable to me shows you just how athletic the kid is.
What About His Demeanor?
Well, Clarke certainly does not lack for confidence. That’s not to say he is cocky or arrogant. Just supremely confident.
When I asked him about being one of the better players at the Pangos camp despite being just a class of 2021 prospect (when most of the players there were entering their senior years), Clarke smiled and succinctly said:
“I’ve played in a lot of camps before with older guys. 2019 guys last year, 2020 now. I played well against them last year, so this is the year for me to show I’m fearless.”
That doesn’t sound like a kid who will be intimidated if he ends up playing college basketball next year.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 7, 2019
Just How Talented Is He?
If you’ve been following my work for long enough you know that I’m not one to overhype guys. When I really believe in a guy, I’ll tell you (in recent years, it’s been big on guys like Jayson Tatum, Kevin Knox and Marvin Bagley – all of whom had nice college careers). There are others (Markelle Fultz, Mo Bamba and others) who I just don’t buy into, and I’ll tell you that too.
There are times I miss on guys (Trae Young comes to mind). But I’ll never hype a kid just for the sake of hyping him.
And I bring that up because I take what I’m about to tell you about Clarke very seriously.
That is this: I’ve seen just about every big-time high school player in both the 2020 and 2021 high school classes. There are a lot of talented kids, at all ages and stages of their careers.
However, there were only two who – when I first saw them – I said to myself, “man, that looks like a future NBA All-Star.”
Those two players were Cade Cunningham and Terrence Clarke.
Again, I don’t make a statement like that likely.
It also shows you just how good Clarke has a chance to be (at least in my eyes). He’s already got advanced skill, athleticism and toughness for his age. And if you don’t believe me (and shame on you) here is a bit of further confirmation: Evan Daniels said last week that if Clarke does join the class of 2020, he could eventually be ranked as high as No. 3 nationally behind only Cunningham and California big man Evan Mobley (who is a stud in his own right).
That’s also why, assuming that Clarke does commit and assuming he does reclassify (more on that coming) I wouldn’t worry about how it might impact the rest of the class. I’ve seen some Kentucky fans worry that a commitment from Clarke could cost them a shot at Joshua Christopher and Jalen Green.
Well, one, I’m not sold Kentucky is even the leader for Green. And two, with zero disrespect intended to Christopher (seriously, I’m not here to pick on any high school kid, especially one as talented as he is), Christopher isn’t Terrence Clarke. I’d take Clarke over him every chance I get. You just don’t worry about who you will lose, when you’re getting a kid that talented coming in. You just count your lucky stars you’re getting a guy that good.
Not to mention that there is of course the possibility that Clarke will remain in the high school class of 2021. Meaning there is the possibility you get Christopher next year. And Clarke the season after.
With that said…
What’s Next, and Do You Think Reclassification is Likely?
So again, I’m not claiming to have any inside information on this one, but I’ll tell you this: It absolutely makes no sense for Clarke to commit now if he isn’t planning on being in college next season. If he were to stay in the 2021 class it means he wouldn’t get to campus for almost two full years following his commitment. Do you know much could change in two years? College’s coach is on the hot seat, he could be gone. Penny Hardaway could be coaching in the NBA. John Calipari could be retired.
I know the latter two aren’t likely. But what would be the point of committing that early? It makes no sense. Especially for a player as good as Clarke. He is talented enough where he could literally commit to Kentucky (or any school for that matter) the day before he wanted to show up to campus, and the program would figure out a way to make it work.
Now, since I’ve made it clear that I believe he wants to reclassify, here is why I also think it can and ultimately will happen.
Over the summer I actually did a profile of Johnny Juzang’s reclassification process and if there’s something I learned from that, it’s way harder to reclassify than most people realize.
Still, what made it especially hard for Juzang is that he waited until very late in the process to make the decision. Because Clarke began the process much earlier, it should make it easier for him.
With almost an extra full year, I’d be genuinely surprised if he didn’t end up getting his schoolwork in order and enroll in college in the fall of 2020.
And If He Does End Up at Kentucky Next Season, What Does It Mean Big Picture?
Let’s play the look-ahead game and assume that Clarke does commit to Kentucky and does get to Lexington next season.
In the context of next season, it’s hard to know exactly what Clarke’s role will be. Mainly because its hard to know who exactly will be back for Kentucky. Still, even if we just assume the most obvious names return (Immanuel Quickley, Keion Brooks and Johnny Juzang) and BJ Boston and Cam’Ron Fletcher enroll, Clarke should be one of the key, centerpiece players of another high-upside team. In my opinion, he’d be the most high-upside NBA prospect to come to Kentucky since De’Aaron Fox, and should have the kind of impact Kevin Knox did as a freshman, as a big wing with the ability to score all over the floor. I’d also assume that – based on the other players Kentucky is recruited the last few years – that it also means that John Calipari will likely stick with the small-ball that he is likely to implement this season.
In the bigger picture though, this would just be such a massive, major recruiting win for the Wildcats. And proof that Kentucky is unquestionably still a destination for big-time recruits.
Now look, I’ve never bought the notion that Kentucky wasn’t a destination spot. After all, in recent years they beat out Duke for Kevin Knox and EJ Montgomery, Memphis for Ashton Hagans, and signed four of the Top 35 players in America this past cycle. Let’s also never forget they also finished second in some of the biggest recruitments of the past few years. If James Wiseman’s high school coach wasn’t hired at Memphis he’d be at Kentucky. If Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards didn’t stick with the hometown schools, both seemed to be leaning UK. If EJ Montgomery had gone pro, Kentucky might have landed Kerry Blackshear. The Wildcats seemingly finished second in N’Faly Dante and Scottie Lewis’s recruitment as well.
So yeah, UK is not exactly struggling.
But still, to get Clarke, a consensus Top 5 recruit that everyone in America wants, would show that UK remains a home for the “best of the best” high school players. Especially when you consider they already have another Top 15 prospect in BJ Boston.
We will find out for sure where Clarke is going to college in the next few hours.
But if it is Lexington, the Wildcats will have themselves a special, special prospect.