Clarke Open Off Court, Not on It

Everyone knows that you have to stop junior guard Rotnei Clarke when you face Verdigris High (Okla.). However, so far no one - not even Blake Griffin's Oklahoma Christian team - has even begun to contain the 6-foot sharpshooter.

Looking for the best outside shooter in the Class of 2008? For a guy that can make shots from the moment he steps over halfcourt? Head over to Claremore, Okl., to Verdigris High.

That's where you can find Rotnei Clarke.

If he doesn't have class or a game, the 6-foot, 175-pound junior is probably in the gym launching 3-pointers or working on his ballhandling.

Clarke is hardly an unknown. He led the state with his 34.2 points per game last season and despite double teams and defensive game plans like a box-in-one and triangle-in-two to try and stop him, Clarke has actually seen his scoring average rise to 36 per contest and he's also dishing out 6.5 assists per game as his team has gotten off to a 5-0 start.

He is coming off a 38-point performance (10-for-10 from the line) in which he also grabbed eight rebounds in a 53-38 victory over Oklahoma-bound senior big man Blake Griffin and Oklahoma Christian. Griffin was held somewhat in check with 17 points and 9 boards.

Clarke is spending most of his team running the team, but his coach/uncle also does a good job of running him off screens in an attempt to get Clarke decent looks.

``It doesn't really matter to me," Clarke said about where he's more comfortable in the backcourt. "I'm comfortable with the ball in my hands, but I like to come off screens as well."

Clarke has been on a mission since the summer to show people he's not one-dimensional and can do more than just shoot the ball.

``I'm doing more different things this year," Clarke said. "I'm rebounding better and doing more off the dribble."

There's no question that Clarke has plenty of natural ability, but it's also his work ethic that has turned him into one of the best shooters in the nation.

On a non-game day, here's Clarke's routine. Practice is held after 6th period. Clarke will usually stay after it's finished to work on his game, then return later at night with at least one family member (uncle, dad, mom or sister) and shoot 500 shots, take 100 free throws and do ballhandling drills.

Clarke's recruitment hasn't really started to take shape quite yet. That's not to say there aren't plenty of suitors, because there are. In fact, Clarke has offers from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Washington State, Arkansas, Florida State, Tulsa and Missouri State.

He also has a lengthy list of other schools who have expressed interest: Iowa State, Kansas, Texas A&M, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Stanford, UConn, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State and West Virginia.

``I'm enjoying the process," Clarke said. "Right now I'm wide open."

Maybe off the court, but certainly not on it.

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