Ex-NBA veteran Keon Clark sentenced to eight years in prison for gun charge, vows to turn life around

In the grand scheme of things, big man Keon Clark had a moderately successful NBA career, playing six seasons with a PER of 15.4, or just above average. However, he's arguably become more notable for what he's done since he last played a game in 2004. In 2007, Clark earned headlines for stating that he never played a game sober, and things have only gotten worse since then.

On Wednesday, Clark was sentenced to eight years in prison. However, he is also taking responsibility for his actions and vowing to get his life on the right track. From the Associated Press:

Former 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 (http://bit.ly/1bIB1cv). ''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 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. [...]

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.''

Days before accepting the plea deal, Clark spoke about his efforts to improve his life:

“I have been clean and sober for five months,” Clark told The (Champaign) News-Gazette during an interview. “I have made changes for the better mentally.”

Clark has been in this situation before — the 2007 comments on alcoholism were tied to similar claims — but there's reason to hope for the best. The reality of his prison term has clearly given Clark some reason to assess his life and state of mind. Additionally, it is the first time he has been made to face punishment for legal troubles. In 2006, Clark faced 2 1/2 years in prison for gun and marijuana charges but had the case thrown out because he did not have a lawyer present at sentencing.

Clark is facing a lengthy period of incarceration, and there's no certainty that he will get on the right track or return to society with renewed hope. But he seems closer to that point than he was several months ago. That's reason for optimism, no matter how much he has to work to improve his life.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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