Terrence Clarke, who recently joined an elite list of University of Kentucky basketball stars who have left the blue-blooded program early to pursue dreams of playing in the N.B.A., was killed in a car accident on Thursday in Los Angeles, the university said. He was 19.
The crash took place shortly after 2 p.m. in the San Fernando Valley, when a vehicle traveling at a high speed on Winnetka Avenue ran a red light before colliding with a car turning onto Nordhoff Street, Officer Harvey Freeman of the Los Angeles Police Department Valley Traffic Division said Friday.
He said that the driver of the car that crashed into the turning vehicle went on to collide with a traffic signal device. The driver, whom Mr. Freeman did not name but described as a 19-year-old male, was taken to a hospital, where he died. The other driver did not report any injuries, Mr. Freeman said.
“I am absolutely gutted and sick tonight,” John Calipari, the University of Kentucky head coach, said in a statement on Thursday night. “A young person who we all love has just lost his life too soon, one with all of his dreams and hopes ahead of him.”
Calipari said he was traveling to Los Angeles to be with Clarke’s family and provide assistance.
“Terrence Clarke was a beautiful kid, someone who owned the room with his personality, smile and joy,” he said. “People gravitated to him, and to hear we have lost him is just hard for all of us to comprehend right now. We are all in shock.”
A shooting guard who last year was one of the top recruits in the nation, Clarke shined early in his freshman season for the Wildcats under Calipari but had been sidelined by injuries during Southeastern Conference play.
Last month, the Boston native decided to forgo his remaining eligibility and turn pro after the University of Kentucky missed the N.C.A.A. Tournament, an anomaly for the storied basketball program.
Clarke’s death came one day after he and Brandon Boston Jr., his Wildcats teammate, signed with Klutch Sports Group, which is headed by Rich Paul, the influential sports agent who represents LeBron James and a number of marquee players.
“He was an incredible, hard-working young man,” Paul said of Clarke in a statement on Thursday night. “He was excited for what was ahead of him and ready to fulfill his dreams.”
Tributes to Clarke flooded social media on Thursday night as word of his death spread, including from the Lakers star James, who posted a photo of Clarke on Instagram.
“REST IN PARADISE NEPHEW!!!” James wrote.
Kemba Walker, the Boston Celtics star, was at a loss for words when he was asked about Clarke’s death during a postgame news conference.
“Very tough news,” Walker said. “He’s a very good kid, just always smiling, always energetic. He was about to get his opportunity, too.”
Standing 6 feet 7 inches, Clarke was one of the highest-rated shooting guards in the nation and starred for Brewster Academy, a boarding school in New Hampshire. He chose the University of Kentucky over Texas Tech, U.C.L.A., Duke, the University of Memphis and Boston College, according to his biography on the Wildcats website.
He was hampered by a right leg injury that limited him to just eight games as a freshman, however.
Clarke is survived by his parents and three siblings, according to the University of Kentucky.
“Terrence was a young man who was so full of life and so full of promise,” Mitch Barnhart, the university’s athletic director, said in a statement. “We hurt and grieve with his family, his friends, and his teammates and coaches, and our prayers are with all of them in this unimaginable loss.”
Jacey Fortin contributed reporting.