Clarke Takes In Arkansas Again

Oklahoma prep guard Rotnei Clarke (6-1, 180) - who has his decision down to Arkansas, ORU and Oklahoma and will sign in the November 14-21 early signing period - takes in the Arkansas' Red-White game on Friday night as does Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College small forward Daniel Payne (6-7, 210), who plans to sign in the spring.

As Oklahoma prep basketball star Rotnei Clarke was walking into Bud Walton Arena Friday night, he heard the announcer say "3 points for Coach John Pelphrey."


Pelphrey – the new University of Arkansas head basketball coach - joined in on the Razorbacks' Red-White game and got his shot off just as Verdigris High standout was arriving right before halftime for an unofficial visit.

"I heard it right when I walked in," Clarke said. "I didn't get to see it, but I heard it and thought what is going on?"

It certainly thrilled the Razorbacks in a game where the Red downed the White 84-74 with only 10 players available.

Both Clarke and Coffeyville (Kan.) small forward Daniel Payne (6-7, 210) were on hand to watch the game.

"The whole team loved playing with Coach tonight," senior power forward Charles Thomas said. "I noticed his ankles were taped in the locker room and asked Sonny (Weems) ‘are those taped?' It's just awesome that he takes so much pride in the program and wants to do everything he can for us."

Clarke, who said he will be back for next Friday night's Razorback exhibition with West Florida, has his college choices down to Arkansas, ORU and Oklahoma State.

The young man, who averaged 37.2 points per game last season, has officially visited all three schools and is now in the process of making his decision.

"I am trying to make the decision by signing day and hopefully that will happen," Clarke said. "I think it will. I have seen everything that I need to see."

Clark, who was originally being recruited for Arkansas by former Razorback coach Stan Heath, got see a depleted Razorback squad that was missing the suspended trio of Patrick Beverley, Gary Ervin and Stefan Welsh.

He took in Pelphrey's press conference and visited with the coaches and players for quite awhile after the game.

"I am going to come to an exhibition here next Friday and I am going to watch that and just make sure," Clarke said. "I have been to games when Coach Heath was here, but never one when Coach Pelphrey was here. I look at that and probably go to an OSU exhibition and just probably end up making my decision by signing date."

Clarke is anxious to get his decision over with, but said that he hasn't minded the process too much.

"That stuff doesn't really bother me," Clarke said. "I take that as a blessing from God. I have looked at it like a lot of people would like to be that situation. It's tough and it is another way that I think about my high school career coming to an end and that's a little sad, but playing in college is something to look forward to. I just take it as a blessing and try to enjoy it."

Verdigris will have a pair of scrimmages with other teams this next week and Clarke, whose shoulder was in pain near the end of the AAU season, is anxious to get out and play.

"I have been waiting for this for awhile now and have been working hard for it," Clarke said. "I have had a little break off for my shoulder, but I think it is getting back to normal and I am almost 100 percent. I am looking forward to actually scrimmaging somebody else."

An MRI showed the injury to be one that several baseball pitchers come up with at times.

"It was a fraying of my laybrum bone on the top of it," Clarke said. "I played baseball since I was freshman in high school and I had a lot of irritation in that and my rotator cuff.

"It was probably good that I didn't end up going to the Global Games because I might have damaged it more and might have been out," Clarke said. "I will probably end up getting it scoped after basketball season to make sure everything is fine."

Clarke came to the game with his girlfriend and his head coach Kelly Clarke, who is also his head coach.

"I am kind of excited for him to get it over with," Kelly Clarke said. "It's been nuts. I don't know how many times I have answered the question with ‘I don't know.' He hasn't let the pressure get to him. How many kids can say they turned Kentucky and can make the statement 'if they don't want to wait, then they don't really want me?' But he knows these three schools really want him."

Rotnei Clarke

Daniel Payne

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