Baylor senior forward Tristan Clark has decided to no longer play for the No. 2 Bears, ending a once-promising career that was sidetracked by knee surgery two seasons ago.
Clark was the nation’s leading field goal shooter when he suffered a season-ending left knee injury a week into Big 12 play during the 2018-19 season as a sophomore. The 6-foot-10 post player was a preseason All-Big 12 pick last season, but was still hampered in trying to come back from surgery.
“I pushed and challenged myself because I love basketball and I love playing. And I just kept going because I just wanted to keep playing,” Clark said Wednesday. “But it just comes a time where you have to think about the future and just your mental state.”
While calling it a “very hard decision,” the 21-year-old Clark said he is at peace that his basketball career is over. He said in a message he shared on social media to Baylor fans that it became clear that despite countless hours of hard work he was not going to be able to get his knee back to where it was before getting injured.
“Probably the hardest thing was just seeing the finality of it when when he shared it with us, the staff, and when he shared it with the players,” coach Scott Drew said. “He’s a teammate that really cares about his other team members. And he always wanted to be there to help them. And when he had to tell them that he wasn’t going to be able to do this anymore, I know that was emotional for him.”
Baylor had anticipated Clark being able to help fill the void after the departure of forward Freddie Gillespie, a senior last season. The Bears do return 6-10 junior Flo Thamba, and former UNLV transfer Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is also eligible after sitting out last season. Both got extended work in practices when Clark was limited, last season and this fall.
After starting 30 of 33 games as a freshman, Clark was averaging 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game while shooting 73.7% from the field before he got hurt 14 games into the 2019-19 season. He was limited to 22 games last season, starting six of them while averaging 13.1 minutes and 4.0 points a game.
Clark said he was committed to finishing his Baylor degree and hopes to use his experiences to help future athletes through sports psychology.
“Al the stuff I went through, I’m just going to use it as motivation so I can help people and I can impact the world the best way I can,” he said. “I just feel like I can use all this and I’ll have a story to tell to other athletes and I can relate with and just help athletes and just make an impact off the court as much as I did on the court.”
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