Candlelight vigil held in remembrance of Terrence Clarke


A memorial is set up during a candlelight vigil in memory of Terrence Clarke on Friday, April 23, 2021, outside of the Wildcat Coal Lodge in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

With heavy hearts, the men’s basketball team gathered outside of their dorm on Friday night to lead a vigil for Terrence Clarke, the former Kentucky men’s basketball player who died early Thursday afternoon in a car crash in Los Angeles.

Basketball players, students and community members attended the candlelight vigil on Friday night, where Clarke’s teammates made speeches and laid jerseys in front of a memorial set up with Clarke’s photo and wreaths. 

The outpouring of support from those around the Lexington community, basketball world and beyond was put on display as several hundred supporters came to mourn the loss of the former Wildcat.

As the crowd began to gather around the Wildcat Coal Lodge, candles were handed out and lit as members of the basketball program began to emerge from the Lodge for the ceremony.

“I can’t believe I’m up here right now speaking about Terrence in this way,” Keion Brooks Jr. said. “He was so young and full of life. You never saw him without a smile on his face.”

Brooks Jr. said the candelight vigil was fitting for Clarke’s personality.

“A lot of times Terrence was the light in my life. A lot of times where I might’ve been feeling down. . . Terrence came around the corner with that huge smile of his,” Brooks Jr. said.

“[Clarke’s] probably yelling at me right now because I’m getting all emotional, but that’s how much I really love Terrence,” Brooks Jr. said. 

Lance Ware wore his heart on his sleeve at the vigil, crying as he spoke and honored Clarke.

“Terrence was my brother. Everybody loved him. The joy he brought to everybody’s life, in the locker room, on the court. . . It just kills me up here to say that I lost a brother and someone I genuinely cared about,” Ware said.

After Brooks Jr. and Ware spoke, the the team’s pastor said a prayer and led a moment of silence for Clarke.

Davion Mintz took the microphone next, highlighting Clarke’s positive attitude.

“I really want everyone to understand how happy a person like Terrence was,” Mintz said. “All of us on the team last year wondered like why is this dude always happy? It seems like everything is going wrong for him and he’s just still smiling. Little did we know he was just being happy for his last moments.”

The team headed back into the Lodge following Mintz’s speech. Hardly anyone left after the team went back inside, instead staying to pay their respects. Everyone stood still as all eyes were upon the memorial that was now lit with candles.

After several minutes that seemed like hours, individuals began walking up to the memorial to honor to Clarke. The only sound heard was the shutter of photographers’ cameras. Some left flowers, others said prayers.

The crowd began to huddle around the memorial after those individuals were finished paying their respects. Members of the basketball team came back out to do the same, as Jacob Toppin placed a blue jersey with Clarke’s number in front of the memorial.

As the players gathered around the memorial, they began to reminisce on the good times each spent with Clarke. Ware was smiling through tears as he said, “love you bro,” while standing next to the memorial with his teammates.

While most of those in attendance never knew Clarke personally, they shared some of their favorite memories from watching him play.

“My favorite one was when Mintz had that three against Vanderbilt in the corner, and the whole team celebrated it and you just see Terrence smiling ear to ear,” said Vincent Lynch, 20. 

Lynch also remembers when Clarke came back and played against Mississippi State during the SEC tournament, showing everyone that he wasn’t giving up on his team. 

Valerie Batkin, 47, thought of her children, around Clarke’s age, when she heard the news. A lifelong UK fan, Batkin said she felt obligated to show up for the Big Blue Nation during this hard time. 

“Not being able to go to the games and support them like we’re used to doing, I just felt like the right thing to do to be here and support the guys to show them that we love them,” she said. “My heart just breaks for them to know how sad they are and what they’ve lost.”

As the crowd began to dissipate, Mintz gathered the remaining members of Big Blue Nation together in prayer. This was the team that Kentucky fans never got to know. With the pandemic, limited fan capacity in Rupp Arena and the losing record, in that moment the fans were closer to this team than ever before.

Though the players are grieving, they also paid tribute to Clarke by honoring his memory moving forward.

“I just wish I can continue to live my life the way he wanted me to live it and be happy,” Brooks Jr. said.