Verdigris' Rotnei Clarke may not return to Arkansas
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
3/23/11 at 9:18 PM
It is believed that Rotnei Clarke, the all-time scoring leader in Oklahoma high school basketball, may not return for his senior season at the University of Arkansas.
Kelly Clarke, Rotnei’s uncle and former coach at Verdigris High School, says his nephew is frustrated by the Razorbacks’ “lack of discipline and lack of structure.”
Through Rotnei Clarke’s three seasons in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks are 46-47 overall and 16-32 in Southeastern Conference play, with no postseason appearances. The 6-foot guard, an All-SEC second-team selection this season, ranks among the most accurate 3-point shooters in the nation and has a career scoring average of 14.2 points. He averages 7.1 3-point attempts per game.
“He definitely has been underutilized,” said Kelly Clarke, now the girls’ coach at Yukon High School. “He’s been used as a decoy more than he’s been used (as a shooter). That sounds arrogant because I’m his uncle. But every (television) commentator says, ‘Set a screen for that dude. Set a screen for him.’ And one reason his 3-point percentage suffers is because they don’t go to him until it’s too late (in the shot clock).”
Before signing with Arkansas in November 2007, Rotnei Clarke was recruited also by the University of Tulsa, Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, along with others like Gonzaga and Arizona State. He completed his high school career by averaging 40.8 points as a senior and leading Verdigris to the Class 3A championship. His career scoring total of 3,758 points stands as the state record.
By this time next week, it should be apparent whether Clarke is leaving the Razorbacks. A source indicated that Clarke, subsequent to the March 13 firing of coach John Pelphrey, submitted a request to be released from his scholarship, but the request was denied and Clarke was told that the process could not occur until after a new coach has been hired.
Apparently, whether Clarke submits a second request depends on if he is satisfied with Arkansas’ new coach — former Missouri head man Mike Anderson, who was a Razorback assistant in 1985-2002. Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long confirmed Anderson’s hiring on Wednesday night.
Attempts to contact Clarke through the University of Arkansas media relations office were unsuccessful.
Former coach Stan Heath first recruited Clarke on behalf of Arkansas, but was fired in March 2007. Creighton’s Dana Altman was introduced as the new Razorback coach, but reconsidered and vacated the position after less than 24 hours. Pelphrey resumed the recruiting process, signed Clarke and coached him for three seasons.
A year ago, after rumors surfaced that Clarke was seeking a transfer, he released a statement in which he pledged allegiance to the Razorback program.
Rotnei, Kelly Clarke says, “was loyal to them for another year.”
If Rotnei Clarke does leave Arkansas, it is not known whether he has targeted a specific destination.
Reflecting on Rotnei’s recruiting experience, Kelly Clarke said, “He had mentally committed to OU, but when Willie Warren got involved in it, he pulled off of them. He was really looking at Oklahoma State until Sean (former Cowboy coach Sean Sutton) tried to pressure him into (committing).”
At Arkansas, Kelly Clarke said, Rotnei’s career has defined by frustration.
“He’s not going to be able to do the same things he did in high school, but he can do so much more,” Kelly Clarke said. “ ... When he’s hot, put the ball in his hands. Set a screen for him.”
Because of what he says is a disdain for Arkansas’ style of play, Kelly Clarke has attended only a handful of Rotnei’s games played at Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena.
“I just can’t bear to watch it,” Kelly Clarke said. “It just breaks my heart.”
Rotnei Clarke has a career scoring average of 14.2 points at Arkansas. SARAH PHIPPS/The Oklahoman