The NBA draft is typically a joyous occasion as some of basketball's brightest young talents find new homes in the professional league.
But on Thursday, there was a solemn feel throughout Barclays Center as a notable draft prospect was missing from the event. The league honored the memory of Kentucky guard Terrence Clarke, who passed away in a car accident in April 2021.
"It is my honor to now announce that with the next pick in the 2021 NBA draft, the NBA selects Terrence Clarke from the University of Kentucky," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
Clarke's mother, brother and sister were all in attendance, and as the trio walked on stage, the crowd started chanting the young star's name.
The 19-year-old was reportedly in Los Angeles with former Kentucky teammate and fellow draft prospect BJ Boston. The pair was leaving a workout and had just signed with Klutch Sports on Wednesday. Boston was reportedly driving behind Clarke when the accident occurred.
“A good representation of this draft class is a player that passed in Terrence Clark,” Florida State wing Scottie Barnes said to the New York Post earlier on Thursday. “You just saw how much joy and enthusiasm he played with. He represented us all, just being great guys.”
Clarke, one of the top recruits from the 2020 class, was limited to just eight games this season after suffering a foot injury. He averaged 9.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 28.6 minutes per game, shooting 42.1% from the field.
Head coach John Calipari honored his former player earlier Thursday, tweeting, "I want to take a moment to remind everyone that this would have been Terrence Clarke’s big night as well. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, his mom, Osmine, and their family. I can only imagine how wide that smile of his would have been hearing his name called."
Kentucky basketball also paid tribute to Clarke, tweeting in part, "We haven’t forgotten that bright smile of yours and we will never forget it."