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LEXINGTON, Ky. — It was already well-established that future Kentucky basketball player Terrence Clarke was one of the top prospects in the country heading into his senior season.
It appears that he’s only getting better.
Clarke, the highest-ranked of John Calipari’s six early signees for the 2020 recruiting cycle, played two games with his Brewster Academy (N.H.) squad at the National Prep Showcase over the weekend, and he did not disappoint.
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The most immediate takeaway, according to Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans?
“He looked big. He might be 6-7,” Evans told the Herald-Leader. “Maybe it’s his build, maybe it’s his length — but he looked the part, for sure. He’s put on some muscle.”
Clarke — often listed as a 6-foot-6 shooting guard — plays a straight-forward style of ball despite a somewhat slight, but wiry, frame. The recruiting experts who have followed his progress to this point have often mentioned gaining strength as an area that could improve his game. It sounds like Clarke is doing that, and — along with other areas of seeming improvement — the results are paying off early in his senior season.
The Boston native averaged 22 points and seven rebounds over the two weekend games — his team won both — while making 16 of 26 field-goal attempts (61.5 percent) and shooting an eyebrow-raising 70% from beyond the arc, knocking down seven of 10 threes.
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That last stat had social media stirring. Several national recruiting analysts were in the gym for Clarke’s games, and — though it’s a small sample size — the improved shooting ability from three-point range could mark a turning point in his progression.
Clarke hasn’t been a terrible outside shooter by any means, but it has been viewed as one of the few weaknesses in an overall offensive skill set that’s seen as one of the best in the country. He made 22 of 65 threes during the Nike EYBL regular season this past spring — good for a 33.8% clip — and then made just one of 22 three-point shots over five games at Peach Jam in July.
Those who have watched him over the past few months say he has been tweaking his delivery and mechanics, and Evans noted that Clarke is starting to show much more confidence with his long-range shot.
“Terrence has always been more of an off-the-bounce kind of guy, compared to off the catch,” he said. “I think maybe it was just getting the reps in practice with off-the-catch stuff. Maybe it was broadening his range on his jumper. Whatever it was, he’s definitely taking the right steps. The mid-range game is always going to be his bread and butter. He has some DeMar DeRozan to him, with the high elbow game. But, if he can extend that range to the three-point line, attack the closeouts and get to his sweet spots — it’s going to be hard to stop him.”
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If that three-point shot continues to improve — and college defenders have to play Clarke honest on the perimeter — the company he keeps in UK’s backcourt next season could be a major problem for opponents.
Clarke will definitely be sharing the backcourt with five-star point guard Devin Askew, one of the best playmakers in the country, and five-star shooting guard Brandon “BJ” Boston, another one of the best perimeter scorers in the country. Other talented guards and wings off the current Kentucky team are also likely to return next season.
Evans says that if Clarke is a three-point threat, it would help UK’s spacing “immensely.”
“I think Devin is going to be the head of the snake, and he’s an attacker,” he said. “He might not be a quick-burst, quick-twitch kind of a guy, but he finds a way to get downhill. And by getting downhill, it makes the defense collapse. What he does really well is attack and kick. And having guys like BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke on the wings, that’s going to be pretty difficult to stop.”
Evans noted that Clarke and Boston are also adept at attacking defenses from the perimeter, forming a three-man group that will be difficult for defenders to stay in front of.
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There are still other areas for Clarke to improve as he continues to work on that outside shot.
Evans described him arguably the nation’s best high school player when it comes to making “difficult” shots from the floor, something that will only get more difficult at the next level. Indeed, Clarke is prone to attack the basket — often with reckless abandon — and then rely on his athleticism and creativity to make tough shots at the rim. He also often goes to step-back threes and other long, somewhat contested shots in the half-court offense.
“And that can be a blessing and a curse,” Evans said. “It’s a blessing because he’s making those shots. It’s also a curse, because — you make one or two and you think you’re doing the right thing — you start settling for jump shots. He’s just so talented, and at this stage of the game, he can kind of get by on those things. The next step with him is showing the ability to get places off the bounce and being a better playmaker. (Opponents) will have a secondary defender waiting for him. But I think it definitely is a step in the right direction.”
The added strength should help him play through contact — “If he can handle contact better, his ceiling as a complete scorer is raised tenfold,” Evans said — and it will certainly help as a perimeter defender, an area where the long, athletic Clarke is seen as a high-upside player.
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Already the No. 4 recruit in the 2020 class coming into the season, a bigger, stronger Clarke should only lead to bigger and better things in his basketball future.
“People underestimate it, but it’s very big with defense,” Evans said. “Defensively, can he hold his ground? And, as we know, if you’re not going to play defense for Calipari, you’re not getting on the floor. I don’t care how talented you are, there are enough guys to go around in Lexington that will defend.
“I think he’s definitely a competitor. The one thing that he needs to make sure does not happen is he can’t let how he’s playing on offense seep into his defensive prowess. And that’s the name of the game with any high-level prospect — most of the time, these guys base their entire games off their offense. They’re young. But, if he can have a bad shooting game and still bring it defensively … His upside and potential as a defender — along with BJ Boston — I can’t recall in recent years Cal having two guys this size, this length, with these ball skills that can play so many spots on offense and defense.”
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Kentucky's top-ranked basketball recruit is taking 'a step in the right direction' .
LEXINGTON, Ky. - It was already well-established that future Kentucky basketball player Terrence Clarke was one of the top prospects in the country heading into his senior season. It appears that he's only getting better. Clarke, the highest-ranked of John Calipari's six early signees for the 2020 recruiting cycle, played two games with his Brewster Academy (N.H.) squad at the National Prep Showcase over the weekend, and he did not disappoint.The most immediate takeaway, according to Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans?“He looked big. He might be 6-7,” Evans told the Herald-Leader.
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