By Gabby Guerard
Growing up in Dorchester, Terrence Clarke was underestimated.
“I’d always be getting beat up on because I was the younger guy,” Clarke recalled. “I played with the older guys a lot, so I mean just growing up in Boston, it kind of just gave me the attitude that I have now.”
That attitude is simple: work hard.
His work ethic has paid off – earning Clarke the No. 7 rank according to ESPN in the 2020 high school class, and securing him a spot at the University of Kentucky next year. However, just because he has lined up this next opportunity doesn’t mean he’s lost his drive for hard work.
That’s not how Clarke was raised.
Having been a New England native his whole life, he moved from the bustling streets of Dorchester to quaint, scenic Wolfeboro, N.H. to play basketball for Brewster Academy.
“Terrence is arguably the most talented prospect we’ve had in our program at Brewster in the last 20 years,” Brewster coach Jason Smith told the Courier Journal back in September. “His understanding of the game and basketball IQ is tremendous. Terrence’s ability to create space and separation is at an elite level.”
Playing at Brewster Academy has also allowed Clarke to receive endless support from family and friends.
“I think being close to home is a great aspect, because I have a lot of people from home that come to my games: my mom, my little brother, my coaches,” Clarke said.
While most of the games are nearby, the 6-foot-7 wing doesn’t take any experience for granted. Simply being able to travel is something Clarke is thankful for.
“I’m lucky. I’m always traveling and stuff like that with [my] team, it’s always great,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have that chance.”
Next fall, he’ll travel across the country, as he trades in his navy blue No. 5 for a bright blue Wildcat jersey to compete for the University of Kentucky. Although Clarke is thrilled for the opportunity, he recognizes that it’ll be a very different experience from his Northeast basketball career thus far.
“It’s kind of scary just because all my life I’ve been around New England, had the chance to be around my family, and people coming to my games almost every game,” Clarke said. “Going to Kentucky, it’s kind of going to be frustrating not seeing a lot of my people back me up.”
He knows they’ll still support him and watch from afar, as many of the games are televised – just one of the many aspects he is looking forward to. But amidst all the exciting changes that lie ahead in his future at Kentucky, Clarke hasn’t forgotten about his roots.
A Terrence Clarke cameo in this photo lol
📸: AP / Michael Dwyer pic.twitter.com/Wz51LvHYO5
— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) December 23, 2019
At his core, he is still the underestimated “younger guy” who keeps pushing himself to be better.
“I just want to play as hard as I can to get to the next level,” Clarke said.
Having been inspired by many stars in the NBA, Clarke has watched others live out his dream. The two Hall of Famers he admires most are Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson.
“One of the main players that I’ve always watched and kind of modeled my game after is Michael Jordan, of course… Michael Jordan will always be the best and the greatest to ever play basketball,” Clarke said.
“But I think the player that has kind of changed the game and just kind of gave it an influence… and I kind of got my crossover from is Allen Iverson, just because of what he did and the influence that he had on a lot of people on and off the court.”
Although Clarke aspires to get to the next level just as these two Hall of Famers did, it’s not just about his own career.
It’s about what he wants to give back to his home community.
“One of the main things for me, ever since I was growing up in Boston as a young kid, I didn’t really have somebody I could look up to and kind of make my knowledge of, ” Clarke said.
“So for me, one of the big things I want to do is kind of interact and be there for the kids that are there growing up now that could be wanting to play basketball for the rest of their lives,” he added. “That’s one of the main things I want to do is put on a platform and just kind of help as [many] kids as I can, because that’s one of the things that I didn’t have.”
Clarke has since reached out to the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, and the two have worked out together a number of times when the Dorchester native visits home. Brown has given Clarke advice for the future, but believes he already has a lot of the tools he needs to be successful.
“… He’s going to be an NBA player someday,” Brown told The Globe in December. “So I’m not taking credit for his growth or anything, but I’ve enjoyed trying to help him. It’s nice to try to be a mentor to someone like that.”
But first Clarke will finish out his last season at Brewster Academy, which includes a stop in Springfield, Mass. at the Spalding Hoophall Classic. And despite his individual success so far, he still feels his team has been highly underestimated.
“I think we have a special team that a lot of people are probably underestimating, because we don’t have, essentially, a big man,” Clarke said. “But the team that we have now, I just want to show how much we can play together and beat a lot of teams in the country… We haven’t really been talked about too much, but I think we’re going to show what we have.”
After all, being underestimated is what Clarke knows best.
It’s what’s fueled him to work harder.
It’s what he was raised on, right here in Massachusetts.
Photo Courtesy of Lexington Herald Leader