Former Verdigris star Rotnei Clarke suffers sprained neck in Butler's win over Dayton

Former Verdigris standout Rotnei Clarke fell headfirst into the backboard support and was taken off the court in a stretcher Saturday.
By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer Published: January 12, 2013
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“I feel blessed to be walking,” Clarke said. “When I hit my head, I rolled over and I couldn't feel anything from my neck down. That's what scared me the most. My body was just tingling. By the time Ryan got out there, I started getting some feeling in my hands, and after awhile, I was fine in my legs. I'm still sore in my shoulders, and I've got a bad headache.”

It's unclear how long the Bulldogs will miss Clarke, who averages 17 points per game.

The Bulldogs' defense and depth pulled them through against Dayton (10-6, 0-2), which has lost four of its last six and fell to 7-3 on its home court. Dyshawn Pierre and Vee Sanford scored 14 apiece for the Flyers.

Coach Brad Stevens went to the hospital as soon as the game ended to see Clarke. Derenbecker shook his hand on the court and asked him to relay a message.

“I said ‘Coach, please tell Rotnei it was not on purpose.' And he said, ‘Matt, I know it wasn't on purpose. Don't worry,' ” Derenbecker said. “It felt good to know that a coach of his caliber was able to realize that it wasn't a dirty play.”

When Clarke was taken off the court, Stevens called his players together and told them it didn't appear to be a serious injury.

“He said, ‘Rotnei's going to be all right, we need to just step up and keep playing,“' Smith said. “We played this game for Rotnei.

“We were all relieved to hear Rotnei is all right. It's just bad whiplash. He's going to be out for a while. We'll pick him up.”