A year ago, Terrence Clarke was getting ready to suit up for his sophomore season of high school basketball. At the time, he was among a handful of new faces at New England prep powerhouse Brewster Academy, joining a loaded roster that featured guys like Alonzo Gaffney, Kai Jones and Jalen Lecque.
A lot can happen in a year.
Today, Gaffney and Jones are freshmen at Ohio State and Texas, respectively, while Lecque is a rookie with the Phoenix Suns. As for Clarke, he’s still at Brewster, prepping for his senior season of high school ball—like we said, a lot can change in a year. In this case, it was this September that Clarke announced his decision to reclassify to the 2020 class at the same time he announced his commitment to Kentucky, where he’ll headline yet another loaded recruiting class in Lexington next fall.
For now, the 6-7, 190-pound shooting guard has time to reflect on the busy—and very fun—summer that brought him to this point. You can start with the second annual SLAM Summer Classic in August, when Clarke and a bunch of the other best high school players in the country came to NYC and took over the legendary Dyckman Park and Times Square. “The SLAM Classic was lit, yo—that was the craziest environment I’ve ever been around in my life,” he says. “The first year was lit, but this year was really over the top.”
There were more formal runs on the Nike summer circuit, of course, but for on-court highlights, it’d be tough to top his invite to trainer Chris Brickley’s already-legendary Black Ops runs, where he had a chance to test himself against NBA talent—all while rocking a customized t-shirt with his Instagram handle, @tclarke, printed across the back.
“The Black Ops runs were crazy,” Clarke confirms. “Playing against players I used to watch on TV. People like Donovan Mitchell, Carmelo Anthony, Dennis Smith, getting schooled by a guy like Trae Young, shooting the basketball and turning around before he even makes it. It was a fun experience. But the main thing I learned is that I could play with anybody—in the country, in the world. It doesn’t matter who it is, I feel like I can play with ’em. That built my confidence a lot.”
Not that Clarke was ever lacking in confidence. Coming up in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood—where his first jersey was a Kevin Garnett Celtics No. 5, and where he watched old videos of Larry Bird and Michael Jordan at his grandfather’s side—he polished his game and his toughness at the Vine Street Community Center, mindful from an early age that basketball could provide a path to something better.
“Going through what I’ve gone through…I don’t really like to talk about my struggles, but I didn’t have the best life when I was younger,” he says. “I think it influenced me to be better. I used to be at Vine Street every single day, trying to get better.”
The work paid off, as did a willingness to adapt and relocate in an effort to maximize his opportunities. He spent eighth grade at a boarding school in Connecticut, played his freshman year at The Rivers prep school in the Boston suburbs, and then switched to Brewster a year later. Then came the reclassification this fall, a jump that college coaches and recruiting analysts, who immediately put him in the top five of the 2020 rankings, all recognized he was ready to make.
As arguably the best perimeter scorer in any class, Clarke knows his strengths. “You know, I’m flashy, creative. I like to make a lot of plays for people, but also score the basketball, at will, whenever I need to,” he says. “I’m never going to run away from smoke. I’m here. I want to show everybody what I can do.”
Ryan Jones is a Contributing Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter at @thefarmerjones.
Portraits by Johnnie Izquierdo.