The Herald Bulletin

June 19, 2013

Butler's Clarke chasing NBA chance

By George Bremer The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — All Rotnei Clarke wants is an opportunity.

After leading Butler in scoring during his lone season with the Bulldogs and proving himself as one of the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the nation, it doesn’t seem so much to ask.

Clarke has heard all of the reasons he’s not a good fit for the NBA — he’s not tall enough at 6-foot even, he’s not a true point guard, etc. — but he’s steadfast in his belief there is a place for him in the league.

“I think every team needs a shooter,” he said Tuesday at Anderson Country Club. “And I think I’m a guy that can come in and put points on the board. I’m trying to work on doing other things as well, getting my teammates involved and making plays for other people.

“Like I said yesterday to some of the media (during a workout) at the (Indiana) Pacers, I believe I have a role. Whether that’s playing two minutes, whether it’s playing 10 minutes, I’m realistic. I’m not saying I’m going to come in and be a starter and play significant minutes in the NBA, but I do believe I have a role somewhere.”

Clarke was in Anderson as part of the 29th annual Children’s Clinic Golf Classic. The event serves as a fundraiser for the St. John’s Children’s Clinic and took in more than $70,000 this year.

Clarke got involved after a conversation with tournament host Brian Hammons on Twitter. And he saw the event as another way to connect with his second home of central Indiana.

“It’s cool to be able to come out here and give back to the community, and it’s an awesome cause,” he said. “And I knew if I had a chance, I wanted to be a part of it. So that’s why I came out.”

Clarke first made his name at Veridigris High School in Claremore, Okla., setting the state scoring record. He chose the University of Arkansas from more than 50 scholarship offers and set a Southeastern Conference record with 13 3-pointers in a single game.

After a coaching change, Clarke transferred to Butler and sat out the 2011-12 season. He helped the Bulldogs return to the NCAA tournament last season by averaging a team-high 16.9 points per game and shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range.

Butler’s season ended in the second round with an overtime loss against Marquette.

“Obviously it was tough how it ended,” he said. “We definitely thought we could have made a deeper run than what we did. But, you know, I came to Butler to be around good teammates, be around good people and the best coaching staff in the country at the college level.

“One of my goals coming to Butler was to make it to the NCAA tournament (which hadn’t happened at Arkansas), and we did that. We won a game, and, like I said, it’s tough that we didn’t get farther, deeper into it. But it was an awesome experience and don’t regret the decision at all.”

Now Clarke waits to see what the next step will be.

He’s unlikely to be drafted later this month and likely will need to earn a spot on a summer league roster as a ticket into the NBA. From there, he’s hoping to make it into some team’s training camp and prove he deserves a place on the bench during the regular season.

At least one of Clarke’s Butler teammates, former Pendleton Heights star Kellen Dunham, believes he belongs at the next level.

“There are a lot of teams in the NBA with a lot of great players,” Dunham said. “But every team needs a good shooter. There’s always room for an exceptional player like Rot.”

Clarke took Dunham under his wing during the season, showing the freshman the ropes at the Div. I level. And he came away extremely impressed.

“He’s special,” Clarke said. “That’s my guy.”

Dunham said he learned as much from Clarke off the court as he did on it, and Clarke sees big things ahead for the former Arabian.

“I prepared him as much as I could throughout the summer, and I think he’s going to have a huge sophomore year,” Clarke said. “He’s got a really bright future. I believe he’s going to be in the league some day, maybe not in school for all four years. We’ll see.”

For now, Clarke is focused on his own NBA future.

He’s worked out for two teams — the Pacers and Washington Wizards — and his agent expects as many as four or five more to call. Clarke would love an opportunity to work out for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and his thoughts often have gone back to his home state after the recent tornado destruction.

“I knew some people that were over in that area, but everyone that I’ve known is good,” he said. “It’s just devastating seeing that happen to your state, your home state, and it’s only about an hour and a half from where I’m from. You hate to see those people go through that, and I hope that when I have a chance I can get back there and help as much as I can.”

That would be easier to achieve with an NBA contract, and nobody will outwork Clarke in his efforts to receive one.

Clarke will let others debate his potential. All he can control is his effort during predraft workouts and his unwavering belief in himself.

“There’s a lot of things that people say, but I have the confidence I have the ability to play in the league,” he said. “I just have to find the right spot and find someone who believes in my abilities and hopefully land in a good place.”