Former UNLV, NBA player gets 8 years in Illinois prison

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Former NBA player Keon Clark exits the Vermilion County Courthouse in Danville, Ill., on Wednesday Dec. 4, 2013. Clark was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to weapons and driving under the influence charges in two separate cases.

DANVILLE, Ill. — Former UNLV and NBA player 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, a transfer from Dixie State, played at UNLV in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.

His senior year featured a pair of suspensions, including 11 games to start the season for accepting a trip to Florida from a sports agent. He later tested positive for marijuana, which earned him another suspension and ended his Rebel tenure one month before the season finished.

Still, he averaged 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game as a senior.

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 counseling while he's in custody.

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

Clark's defense attorneys 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.

Attorney 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."

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