Stan Heath started the game, but John Pelphrey got the win.
Verdigris (Ok) High guard Rotnei Clarke signed with the University of Arkansas on Wednesday over other schools such as ORU, Oklahoma State, Kentucky, Kansas Oklahoma and Gonzaga.
Clarke (6-1, 180), who averaged 37.6 points per game last season, actually signed Wednesday afternoon, but kept his decision private until announcing it on Tulsa television station KTUL during its 10 p.m. newscast.
"It was a tough decision but I knew that I would feel at peace at some point and that is why I waited so long," noted Clarke, who became sure of his decision last Saturday. "I finally did, I made the decision and it feels so right. Arkansas is a great place for me and I am very excited about it."
Ironically, Clarke was actually about to commit to the Razorbacks back in the spring before Heath was not retained by Arkansas.
"When they first let Coach Heath go, I said I am out on them now because I wasn't happy about that," Clarke said. "I did not think there would be a coach that could come back in and attract my attention there again.
"But then Coach Pelphrey came in and recruited me so hard," Clarke added. "We didn't have a relationship at first, but then we started to talk and developed a great relationship. He just turned me around and I felt even better about coming to Arkansas than I even did with Coach Heath there."
Arkansas' fans also did their part, many of them taking pictures of Clarke shooting at Bud Walton Arena after two Razorback games – the last he attended with his dad Conley.
"We went down to a game and people were taking video of him shooting after the game with their cell phones and they were all coming up and talking to him and telling them how they wanted him to be a Razorback," Conley Clarke said.
Rotnei admits he almost didn't make that trip – his second Razorback game in as many Fridays.
"I really almost stayed home and didn't go, but decided to go ahead and in the end I think it went a long way in helping me make my decision," Clarke said. "I just loved the staff, my future teammates and the atmosphere, which is just unbelieveable."
Clarke, who had a career-high 60 points in the last game of his junior season, got it down to a final three of Arkansas, Oklahoma Sate and ORU – where his dad is the director of basketball operations.
"Once I got it down to three I kind of went back and forth and back and forth," Clark said. "And then I eventually cut it down two (Arkansas and ORU). One day it would be I want to go to that school, the next day it was I want to go here instead.
"Then it just came to me clearly and I had that peace in my mind," Clarke added. "I prayed about it and it felt right."
Clarke became the fifth Razorback signee of the week-long early period – and there could possibly be one more announced on Thursday as Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College small forward Daniel Payne (6-7, 210) apparently made a decision on signing early or waiting until the spring right before midnight.
Clarke joins The Patterson (N.C) School point guard Courtney Fortson (5-11, 175), the Genesis One Christian Academy duo of forward Andre Clarke (6-10, 205) and guard Terrance Joyner (6-2, 180) and New Orleans (La.) Holy Cross forward Brandon Moore (6-9, 215).
"I know Andre and I got a chance to play with him at the NBA Camp," Clarke said. "He is a great player, a really explosive player and I really enjoyed playing with him."
Clarke is excited about being teammed with Fortson, somebody that some fans feared might scare off the Oklahoma prospect.
"I think Courtney and I are two different players," Clarke said. "He is more of an attacking pure point guard and I am more of a combo guard like (current Razorbacks Patrick) Beverley or (Stefan) Welsh," Clarke said. "Coach Pelphrey made it clear to me how he envisions playing us together I felt very comfortable with that. I really look forward to playing with Courtney."
Clarke is a very religous young man and the fact that Arkansas has Arkansas Athletes Outreach a Christian Outreach program, also played a factor in his decision.
"My walk with God is very important to me and the fact that they had that (AAO) was very important to me," Clarke said. "When I got to check that out and met those guys, it even sparked my interest more."
Clarke's announcement was attended by some 30 family and friends at the television station.
That included his dad Conley, his mom Chris and his younger sister Cassie, a standout basketball and volleyball player who is drawing interest from Arkansas in both sports.
Conley Clarke was obviously in a strange situation with ORU recruiting his son and him being on staff there.
"I had several chances to take coaching jobs – some who wanted me to take a job just so they could sign Rotnei," Conley Clarke said. "But I thought that ORU was the best situation for me.
"There were a lot of people talking about how that Rotnei would definitely go to ORU, but that was never the deal," he added. "He was going to make the best decision for him and he had some great options. Sure I would love to have coached him and been around him, but I am thrilled he is going to Arkansas and going to play for Coach Pelphrey. I really couldn't lose in this deal."
It was clear that Pelphrey also won over Mrs. Clarke.
"I kind of stayed back honestly through this whole thing," Mrs. Clarke said. "There were very few coaches I really got close to, but Coach Pelphrey was one of them. I had no problem with him and am very excited he is going to be Rotnei's coach."
Some credit also has to go to Sandra Kuntzweiller, Clarke's grandma who lives in Fayetteville and is a huge Razorback fan.
"She was always telling me growing up that I should be a Razorback," Clarke said. "I know she would have supported me wherever I would have gone, but she is really thrilled I am going to be a Razorback. So am I."
Arkansas Lands Rotnei Clarke
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