By Ray Martin
Oklahoma basketball fans have been longing for this match up for four years now. Pawnee point guard Keiton Page versus Verdigris point guard Rotnei Clarke.
Finally, fans are getting their wish.
Page and Pawnee tip off against Clarke and Verdigris at 2p.m. Friday at the Tournament of Champions in Tulsa.
Both are widely regarded as the states best guards. Page, an OSU signee, has led Pawnee to the state tournament in each of the last three years, and helped the Black Bears claim the title in his freshman season. He is closing in on the Tournament of Champions scoring record set by former Victory Christian point guard Keleena Azubuike.
Clarke, an Arkansas signee, is closing in on his own milestone, the Oklahoma small-school career points record. Clarke has led Verdigris to the 3A semi-finals in each of the last three seasons. He was the state’s leading scorer a year ago (38 points per contest) and won the T o C scoring title (121 points through 3 games).
But the reason fans want to see this match up is rooted in something much deeper than stats. Clarke and Page have a history, and an impressive one at that.
The two played together at Yale in middle school, destroying every seventh grade team that stepped on the court with them. They played AAU ball together in the summers before their 6-8 grade years with the Oklahoma Hoosiers. I remember going to Oral Roberts team camp in the summers and watching a middle school AAU team embarass high school teams. Later, I found out it was Clarke and Page doing all of the embarassing. Luckily, my team never had to play them.
When Clarke left Yale after middle school, though, the two never played together again. In fact, they never even played against each other until their AAU teams met last summer in a tournament in Las Vegas (Clarke and Team Texas beat Page and PWP).
The two almost played a year ago after Pawnee upset Victory Christian in the first round of the T o C, but Verdigris fell three points short of shocking eventual 6A champion Midwest City and found itself in the losers bracket.
Tune in tomorrow for thoughts on the game, and check out Ryan Aber’s Blog for his thoughts.
I have been going back and forth on who I think will win and why for about 12 hours now, and I still haven’t reached a conclusion. All I know is that tomorrow (actually about 12 hours from now) the Tulsa Expo Paviion will be packed wall to wall to watch two small school, small town heroes go at it for 32 minutes. It should be a blast!