Keiton Page Ready For Tournament of Champions

Keiton Page is just like everyone else who would like to see a potential matchup between himself and Rotnei Clarke of Verdigris (Okla.) High School in this week's Tournament of Champions in Tulsa. The standout Pawnee (Okla.) High School guard was not surprised when the brackets for tournament were released, and showed a potential matchup between the two best high school guards in the state.

Page, the 5-foot-10 guard who signed with Oklahoma State last month, and his Pawnee Black Bear teammates will face Class 6A powerhouse Jenks at 7 p.m. Thursday in a first-round game of the Tournament of Champions at the Expo Square Pavilion in Tulsa. Verdigris and Clarke will play McGuinness in a first-round matchup at 3:30 p.m.

The two longtime friends have never meet during their illustrious high school careers. But a Page-Clarke showdown will materialize if both of their teams win Thursday, or if both squads lose their first-round games. If both Pawnee and Verdigris win, the semifinal game will be played at 7 p.m. Friday; if they lose, the two will meet in a consolation bracket matchup at 2 p.m. Friday.

"I think it's a game that everybody is looking forward to," Page said Wednesday afternoon. "The last couple of years they've put us on the same side of the bracket so hopefully we'd get to play. (Rotnei and I have) joked around about it. It would be a really fun game. I think it would be a high-scoring game, and a fun one for everyone to watch."

As a matter of fact, Page wasn't the least bit surprised when Clarke, who signed with Arkansas during the November signing period, gave him a call a few weeks ago.

"The day after the brackets came out he gave me a phone call and we kinda laughed about it," said Page, who is averaging 37 points while shooting 57 percent (17 of 30) from three-point range in Pawnee's first three games this season. "We knew it was going to happen that way because it has the last couple of years. But last year we beat Victory (Christian) and they unfortunately got beat by Midwest City, so it didn't work out that. Every year they're trying to get it to happen, so we'll see if it does this year."

Pawnee only lost three games last season in finishing as the Class 2A state runners-up, and two of those losses came in the Tournament of Champions. This will be Page and his teammates third consecutive appearance in the T of C, and they know what to expect.

"I'm really excited about it. We've been looking forward to it," said Page, who has scored 40 or more points in two of the first three games of his senior season. "We kinda figured it would be us and Verdigris on the same side. We just didn't know what big school we'd draw. We got Jenks, and they're a tough team. We went to watch them play the other night, and they're are big and physical, and have a deep bench, so it should be a good game.

"I didn't really care who we played. A lot of smaller schools probably get scared when they hear they'll be playing a big school, but we're kinda used to it after the last couple of years. Last year we played Victory (Christian) and upset them in the first round, and I think that gave our guys some confidence. We're looking forward to playing Jenks."

Page also has a little extra incentive when the Black Bears and Trojans meet in the first round. He and Clarke have been long-time friends, and played together for many years on an AAU summer team. But so did Jenks 6-7 senior Vince Boncaldo.

"Actually, one of my really, really good friends (Vince Boncaldo) plays for Jenks. We're real close, and I've been getting quite a few phone calls from him lately," Page said. "I've been playing AAU basketball with him since I was in the fifth grade, and we were on the same team up until last year. He's used to be a dirty player and got away from it recently. When we were in junior high he used to get (technical fouls), but he hasn't gotten one in something like four years.

"But he was telling me he's going to go back to his dirty ball, and said he's going to rough me up a little bit," Page said with a laugh. "But last year he got a pretty nasty dunk by (Midwest City's) Xavier Alexander on him, so I've been kinda trash-talking about that lately."

Page scored 49 points in Pawnee's season-opening win over Perry, and finished with 41 points while playing sparingly in the second half of a 105-41 victory over Woodland. But he scored just 21 points while suffering leg cramps in a 63-58 loss to Heritage Hall.

"I have a bad problem with leg cramps, and have to go to the doctors for it. The last couple weeks I've been taking some stuff that will hopefully help me," said Page, who suffered leg cramps in last year's Tournament of Champions. "They've given me some potassium pills, and I've been taking those but they haven't seemed to help me lately.

"We talked to a couple of trainers, and talked to the OSU trainer, and they told me to eat a lot of fruit, and start preparing two or three days before a game. They told me to start getting a lot of liquids in me, but the main thing is just stretching. So we've been working on that the last couple weeks. I've been stretching every night and every morning. I get in about 30 or 40 minutes before practice and get stretched out pretty good. They tell me that's the main thing I can do."

Other first-round games in the Tournament of Champions on Thursday include Tulsa East Central vs. Stringtown at 2 p.m., and Tahlequah Sequoyah vs. Bixby at 8:30 p.m.

All games during the three-day event will be played at the Expo Square Pavilion.

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