Ex-Raptor Clark sentenced to 8 years in prison

The 38-year-old Danville native was 23 when he became the 13th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft. (Rick Danzi/AP/News-Gazette)

DANVILLE, Ill. — Former Toronto Raptor Keon Clark, who has said he is trying to turn his life around, was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday in a plea agreement with prosecutors on weapons and driving under the influence charges.

“I, uh, did a lot of stuff in my past,” Clark tearfully said at his plea hearing in Vermilion County Circuit Court, The News-Gazette reported. “I have to own up to it.”

Clark pleaded guilty to two charges in two separate cases and was given four years for each count. He previously faced weapon, drug and traffic-related charges.

The 38-year-old Danville native was 23 when he became the 13th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft. He last played for the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns.

Clark has spoken publicly of his long battle with alcohol, which he says also occurred during his NBA career. He now says he’s been sober for five months. He previously told the newspaper he wasn’t prepared mentally to handle the lifestyle of a professional athlete, and says he was already on a “destructive path.”

“The money, the fame, the fact that I was on TV. People think money will make your life better. Money didn’t dissolve my problems. It increased them,” he said, adding that he’s been getting counselling while he’s in custody.

Clark has been in the Vermilion County jail since Aug. 4. Prosecutors said he will have to serve 50 per cent of his sentence. He will receive credit for 138 days already served and must serve his sentences consecutively.

Clark’s defence lawyers requested that the judge recommend he serve time at an Illinois Department of Corrections drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility outside Chicago so he can continue treatment.

Lawyer Jim Martinkus of Champaign said after the hearing that he hopes Clark’s treatment would “cure him of his addiction, which is the cause of most of his troubles.”

Clark smiled and waved to supporters at the beginning of the hearing, including his mother and members of the Carter Metropolitan Community Church in Danville.

At one point during the hearing, he stood and addressed them, saying, “It could’ve been a lot worse. It’s going to be a lot better.”

Clark played six seasons in the NBA, including a season and a half in Toronto. The Raptors acquired him in a trade from Denver midway through the 2000-01 season. He averaged nine points and 5.4 rebounds over 46 games.

Clark played the entire 2001-02 season with Toronto, making 31 starts. He had his best statistical year, averaging career highs in points (11.3) and rebounds (7.4).

Clark averaged 8.2 points and 5.9 rebounds over 353 career games.

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