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Terrence Clarke talks “loving” teammates, Coach Cal, and why he passed on NBA G-League

Kentucky fans will love hearing what Clarke said about the 2020-21 Wildcats.

UK Athletics

The 2020-21 Kentucky Wildcats have the potential to finish as one of, if not the top team in college basketball this season.

That’s typically a common statement for a John Calipari-coached team, as he’s one of the best the sport has ever seen when it comes to assembling elite talent.

But for all of the success Calipari has had, his job has gotten more challenging in recent years due to the NBA G-League, which is now recruiting the same elite talents Calipari often has Kentucky vying for.

This year, it was five-star guard and top-10 recruit Terrence Clark who considered the G-League route after initially signing with the Wildcats in the Class of 2020. Had that happened, the ceiling for this year’s Kentucky team would have lowered significantly, enough that we probably wouldn’t have seen them make the Final Four or even win what’s become a loaded SEC.

Thankfully, Clarke passed on going the professional route and is now set to be a key piece of a Kentucky team that could be a preseason top-five team (if Olivier Sarr and Jacob Toppin are eligible).

Today, Clarke met with the media to discuss his first and likely only year at Kentucky. When asked about the G-League, Clarke said he needed to be coached by Calipari before entering the pros.

“Coach Cal is obviously going to get me ready,” Clarke said. “I kind of think that I needed Coach Cal, you know what I mean? Just so I can stay mentally ready and develop my mind and maturity here. One of the main things for me, the G League and stuff like that wasn’t really on my mind. Especially when I got here, I just knew that it would be a great situation for me.”

Clarke also discussed the bond he’s already developed with his teammates, going as far as to describe it as “loving.”

Here is a recap of what Clarke had to say via UK Athletics.

On Bruiser Flint saying John Calipari considered as a talent similar to John Wall and Anthony Davis

“Just knowing that guys like Anthony Davis and John Wall obviously had great years here and going on to the NBA and being great players that they are, being in that conversation, I’m blessed. That’s really all I can say. I mean, it doesn’t really stop me. I’ve always had this confidence where I think I can be a good basketball player, a great one. For me, just hearing that, it kind of gives me even more confidence to keep working on my game and playing as hard as I can. That’s really it.”

On Calipari coaching him tough …

“Definitely. Every day. Day in and day out. Every practice, I feel like every day coach has something to say to me. I just kind of take it in and work as hard as I can to understand what he’s saying, because obviously Coach Cal is a great coach, one of the best college basketball coaches in the world. For him being on me every day, I just take it as him wanting me to be great and as good as possible. I just work as hard as I can every day.”

On what through his mind when he was being recruited that Kentucky isn’t for everyone …

“It’s kind of a challenge. I took it as a challenge, especially when I got here. The first thing that I knew was that this school wasn’t for everybody. It’s obviously things like you’re going to have to work 10 times harder than the next person and stuff like that. We have all types of five stars and great basketball players here and we have some transfers and stuff like that. So, every day is a battle. You have other schools where five-star recruits are kind of paved the way to the starting lineup spots, but here you have to work for your spot. When he says that this school isn’t for everybody, that means you have to be ready to work every day.”

On advice he would give others considering Kentucky …

“You’ve just got to be mentally prepared every day. There’s no days off here. You are working here every day to be a professional basketball player, so Coach Cal is not going to let you take days off, take plays off or whatever the case may be. You have to work every single day that you’re here. For the next recruit, if you want to be great, you’re going to have to go through these types of things, the sacrifices you have to take while you’re here. You can’t go out and do all of the things that you think you can. For me and the team that’s here, we’re in the gym 25/8. We’re here working every day.”

On considering other options amid the pandemic, but what ultimately made him stay with Kentucky …

“I feel like Kentucky as a school will obviously get you prepared for that type of stuff. Kind of with the uncertainty of the season, it kind of wasn’t even really on my mind. Being here with the guys that’s here, even when we didn’t even know if we had a season, we were still in the gym every day working and everything. I feel like the college aspect gets everybody ready for the next level. One of the main things for me is, I really just wanted to stick it out. Coach Cal is obviously going to get me ready. I kind of think that I needed Coach Cal, you know what I mean? Just so I can stay mentally ready and develop my mind and maturity here. One of the main things for me, the G-League and stuff like that wasn’t really on my mind. Especially when I got here, I just knew that it would be a great situation for me.”

On what benefits there are to coming to college …

“Like I said, for me, it’s the mental part. I just want to be as mature as possible for the next level and I knew that being here is one of the things that could help me in that situation. Like I said, Coach Cal said this school isn’t for everybody. That’s really a fact. For me, I just want to work as hard as I can mentally and physically, so I can play my best this year and if next year I go to the draft or whatever the case may be, that will be it.”

On flying across the country over the summer to work out with Brandon Boston Jr. and Devin Askew

“The conversation was kind of brought up when my season at Brewster (Academy) was finished. Devin and BJ just told me that I could come out there and stay with them and work out with them. For me, those are my future teammates and I thought there would be no problem with it. Me, personally, I worked as hard as ever in Boston, but in LA we worked even hard. I feel like we worked out about four or five times a day, so I knew the situation would be great. I stayed with BJ for the time being. I stayed there for about a month, a month and a half probably. At the end of the day, we were just working. I knew that if I could get out there and work with my teammates we could build chemistry early. Our main goal is to win a championship, so obviously that was a great situation.”

On how close it was to being a full team out in California …

“Obviously there is a situation with COVID-19 and stuff like that. The situation that was there, Cam(‘Ron Fletcher) and Isaiah (Jackson) would have definitely come out if it was possible for them. The situation limited that, but I feel like if we had the chance, we all would have been out there and working out and coming together. We all already had a group chat and everything where we were all talking amongst each other even before the season started. We were already excited. I wish that they were there. We’re all still here and we’re organized.”

On changing his pregame eating routine now that he’s in college …

“I feel like Coach (Bruiser) Flint has been on me about that type of stuff. And also Rob (Harris), our (strength and conditioning coach) and our nutritionist, Monica (Fowler). She’s been on me about eating a lot more and eating healthy. I think for me, the sugar rushes are going to have to go. But I mean, as you can see, I’ve been drinking a lot of water. I’ve been staying away from the sweets and stuff like that just because the season is coming around and I know that’s not going to last me too long. I’ve been trying to stay as healthy as possible.”

On the transition from high school to college with all the added responsibilities …

“Honestly, it’s fun. Growing up, you always thought of these situations. I always grew up watching basketball and watching guys on the court do these kinds of things (like interviews). So, me being in this position, I’m just taking full advantage of it and having as much fun as possible. I mean, the transition is kind of weird because I haven’t done it before, but I’m just trying to have as much fun as I can because this is a lifetime dream for me really.”

On his take on Boston’s game and what he thinks about the damage he and Boston can do on the wings together …

“Honestly, I think BJ is a great basketball player. I always thought so. One of the main things for me coming to Kentucky was BJ getting here too. Ever since we were at camps like NBAP and Elite 100, we talked about teaming up at schools. Here, being at Kentucky, time will tell. We’re going to do some damage, I feel like, but we don’t really want to talk too much. I think the main thing for us is playing as a team. Even though we’re on the wings and stuff like that, we have other great basketball players like Olivier Sarr and Isaiah Jackson and Devin Askew. The list goes on. I feel like me and BJ being on the wings has complemented everybody else on the team.”

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