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'A great soul': New CMU coach Tony Barbee mourns death of Kentucky's Terrence Clarke

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Tony Barbee was on an extreme high traveling to Mount Pleasant on Thursday, having landed his third head coaching job, and his first in seven years.

Central Michigan's new basketball leader then got news that rocked him to his core, turning that highest of highs into the lowest of lows.

Kentucky basketball player Terrence Clarke died in a car accident Thursday.

Terrence Clarke, a freshman guard on the Kentucky basketball team this past season, was killed in a single-car accident Thursday in Los Angeles. An NBA Draft prospect, he was 19. Barbee recruited him to Kentucky, where he was an assistant coach before being named Central Michigan's coach Friday.

"It's tough to talk about," Barbee said Friday, pausing several times to compose himself. "When you connect with somebody on such a deep personal level ...

"I'm so saddened for Terrence, his family, his mother. You're talking about a young man who had a great soul and a great spirit."

Clarke played the first seven games of this past season before an ankle injury sidelined him until the season finale. He averaged 9.6 points.

He was a projected lottery pick at one point, but not in recent mock drafts. He still was willing to bet on himself by entering the NBA Draft and signing with an agent.

Barbee said the talent, obviously, stood out with Clarke, but it wasn't his defining trait.

"He was a caring kid," Barbee said during an introductory press conference in which he stressed, the importance of relationships. "He loved his teammates, they loved him.

"May Terrence rest in peace, may things get better for his family.

"They're really struggling, as we all are."

With that, Barbee took a sip of water and wiped away tears.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984