Clarke's On Fire

University of Arkansas signee Rotnei Clarke and his Verdigris High squad are off to a sizzling start and will face some stiff competition in this week's 43rd annual Cherokee Nation Enterprises Tournament of Champs in Tulsa.

The leading active career scorer in the state of Oklahoma is continuing to light things up before he heads to the University of Arkansas.

Razorback signee Rotnei Clarke (6-2, 180) is off to an outstanding start this season while averaging 38.7 points per game for his 6-1 and Class 3A top-ranked Verdigris High squad.

That includes 271 points alreaady this season with four games of over 40 points - the last one coming when he dropped in 43 Tuesday night in a win over Berryhill.

"Our team has done very well so far," Clarke said. "I've seen about every junk defense imaginable so far, but we've worked together and I've either worked to get them open shots or they have done the same for me."

Clarke, on pace to break the state record of 3,679 career points, will be on display this week in Tulsa in the 43rd annual Cherokee Nations Enterprises Tournament of Champs.

"It's a great opportunity for small schools such as ours to go play against some of the larger class teams," Clarke said. "It's great competition and there is always a ton of talent in the tournament."

The three-day even begins Thursday and is being held at the Expo Square Pavilion.

Class 3A No. 1 Verdigris gets 4A No. 1 Bishop McGuinness – led by 6-10 junior Daniel Orton – Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the opening round.

The other opening round games feature Class 5A No. 1 East Central battling Class B No. 1 Stringtown at 2 p.m., Class 2A No. 1 Pawnee and Class 6A No. 2 and two-time defending champ Jenks at 7 and Tahlequah Sequoyah taking on Class 5A No. 7 Bixby at 8:30.

If Verdigris and Pawnee either both win or both lose, it would set up a first-ever high school match-up between Clarke and Pawnee's Keiton Page, an Oklahoma State signee who had a combined 74 points in the event last season.

The pair are the two leading active career scorers in the Oklahoma prep ranks right now.

"That would be a lot of fun, especially if it happened in the winners' bracket," Clarke said.

Verdigris was 0-3 in the event last year although Clarke set a new tournament scoring record with 104 points in the trio of games.

He scored 122 points while his team was going 2-1 in the Eastern State Tournament last weekend.

"We got upset in our second game by Clayton and just didn't play as well as we could," noted Clarke, whose team played without an injured starter. "But we came back out the next night and won and hopefully that will get us on another long winning streak."

Clarke, who chose Arkansas over Oklahoma State and ORU and some 30 other offers, was on hand for the Razorbacks' 94-91 win over Missouri on Nov. 28 in Bud Walton Arena.

"I was at the Missouri game and it was just a lot of fun and exciting to watch the way Arkansas played," Clarke said. "It's the kind of game I look forward to playing once I get there."

Clarke is one of six signees that Arkansas inked during the November early signing period.

He joins guards Courtney Fortson and Terrence Joyner, small forward Daniel Payne and power forwards Andre Clarke and Brandon Moore as future Razorbacks.

"Obviously it is a heck of a class," Clarke said. "It gets me excited thinking about the future and how good we could be. I have played with or against some of the guys and I am looking to getting to know the others."


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