Rotnei Clarke: Butler gives ex-Oklahoma prep star a new home, and keys to the gym
COMMENTARY — Don't look now but those basketball Cinderellas at Butler may be about to make another run, this one led by former Oklahoma high school basketball star Rotnei Clarke.
Basketball players at Butler were given key cards for anytime access to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse at the same time Rotnei Clarke showed up.
Not a chance.
Oklahomans know Clarke as the state's high school career scoring leader, a sharpshooter from Verdigris, a gym rat who not only takes but also makes hundreds of shots every day. It's a routine he continued at Arkansas, then took with him to Butler, the small Indiana school with the big-time basketball program. Since he had to sit out last season under NCAA transfer rules, he couldn't travel with the team.
He might've busted in the gym if necessary.
Thank goodness for the key cards.
“That's been really important for guys who like getting into the gym and working on their shots and working on their game,” Clarke said.
No one fits that description better than him.
After a couple of rough seasons at Arkansas and a tough redshirt season at Butler, Clarke is reaping the benefits of his stick-to-itiveness. He leads Butler in scoring, averaging 17.5 points a game, and helped the Bulldogs upset top-ranked and cross-state rival Indiana last weekend.
Clarke led all scorers in that game with 19.
His biggest points came with the Hoosiers leading by four in overtime. He caught a pass at least eight feet behind the three-point line, and without hesitating, he shot the ball.
He buried it.
That shot started the 8-2 run on which Butler would finish off the Hoosiers.
That game adds to the validation Clarke feels about the choice he made to transfer to Butler a year and a half ago.
“I think it's all tying together,” he said via cellphone from Indianapolis earlier this week. “I believe I made the right decision.”
He thought the same back in the summer of 2011. In June, he decided to leave Arkansas, where he'd grown increasingly disenchanted, and wanted to transfer to another school. He considered returning to his home state and playing for Oklahoma. He thought about Virginia. But in the end, he picked Butler.
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