Expectations grew higher and higher immediately following a somewhat down season where the Butler Bulldogs weren’t a part of the NCAA Tournament in 2011-12, but participated in the College Basketball Invitational. That was quite a change from the previous two seasons that they made consecutive unforgettable runs in the NCAA Tournament and played for the National Championship two years in a row.
The 2011-12 season was Rotnei Clarke’s transfer year and was forced to sit out that season per NCAA rules. It was extremely tough for a competitor like Clarke. Starting in 91 of 92 games played in his first three collegiate seasons at Arkansas, he scored 1,306 points and averaged 14.2 points per game. He also became known as one of the more prolific three-point shooters in the nation.
Rotnei was the top freshman in the nation in three-point percentage, shooting 39.3%. Overall he averaged 12.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists, while making a remarkable 93.5% from free throw line. Clarke made an astounding 83 3-pointers, scored in double-figures in 22 games as a frosh and scored 17 points in his first game as a Razorback.
Heading into his sophomore season in Fayetteville, Rotnei was tabbed in the preseason as the number one shooter by foxsports.com. ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz named him the country’s best shooter. He scored an Arkansas school record 51 points against Alcorn State and also ranked 9th in the NCAA in three-point field goals made per game (3.2) and 3-point % (42.7), all while leading Arkansas in scoring nine times and reaching scoring in double-digits 23 times.
As a junior, Clarke started every game for the Razorbacks. Averaging 15.2 per game, he shot 44% from outside-the-arc and 86% from the charity stripe and ended his time as a Razorback by being named to the 2nd team All-SEC.
With his competitive drive and will to win, Rotnei Clarke decided to transfer to from Arkansas to Butler University following his junior year in 2010-11. He was in pursuit to play and advance far in the NCAA Tournament, just as the Butler Bulldogs did during the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Tournaments. He would be required to sit out a year because of NCAA transfer rules.
On November 10, Clarke made his Butler regular season debut and did so in grand fashion with 21 points, including 8-16 from the floor, making 5 of 10 from three-point range in just 22 minutes. Just nine days later, Clarke’s 20 points, but mainly his buzzer-beating three in the Maui Invitational opener to beat Marquette helped springboard Rotnei into the national spotlight, just where he wanted to be.
Clarke was cruising right along during his senior season of college basketball, his first at Butler, and then the unthinkable happened. In just his second Atlantic 10 game, Rotnei was limited to just 12 minutes in the Bulldogs’ January 12 game at Dayton. With just about 8 minutes remaining in the first half, Clarke was dribbling toward the basket on a fast break and was fouled by a Dayton defender on his way up for a layup. The foul forced him into the basket support in an awkward way. He was carted off the court on a gurney and taken to Miami Valley Hospital and released later that evening.
The 6’0 sharp-shooter from Verdigris, Oklahoma would miss Butler’s next three games against Richmond, #8 Gonzaga and at LaSalle. It was driving Clarke nuts to watch his teammates from the bench during those three games, especially their primetime home game against #8 Gonzaga on ESPN.
A lot was expected of Rotnei upon his arrival on the court in Indianapolis and he did what he could individually to help get Butler back to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs finished the season with a 27-9 overall record,
It’s unbelievable to imagine what the previous three seasons would have been like if Clarke would have been a Butler Bulldog from the start. To have been a part of the two National Runner-up teams in 2010 and 2011, he could have helped Butler to a national championship, possibly two. With Clarke in Indy, it’s probably an assumption that Butler would have been in the NCAA Tournament and not trying to play for the CBI title in 2011-12.
Clarke had a handful of off games from a shooting standpoint in his senior and only season as a Butler Bulldog, but that’s going to happen from here and there. Overall, Rotnei had a great senior year, scoring 559 points in his 33 games of action. He shot 41% overall (183-444) and also knocked down 115-282 (41%) from three-point land and an outstanding 88.6% (78-88) at the free throw stripe.
Those senior year totals bring Rotnei’s four-year total at Arkansas (3) and Butler (1) to some pretty good numbers. In recent years, Arkansas hasn’t been the basketball school that it once was and Clarke helped bring the Razorback roundball program back in the right direction before he made his exit to Indianapolis and Butler University.
Rotnei Clarke scored a team-high 24 points on 8-17 shooting (5-12 from three) and 3-3 free throws in his final collegiate game as the Butler Bulldogs were outlasted by Marquette in the 3rd round of the NCAA Tournament, 74-72 on March 23.
The state of Oklahoma high school all-time leading scorer (3,758) wound up with 1,865 career points for an average of 14.9 points per game in 125 games, starting 124. He sank 385-935 (41.6) from three-point range and shot 598-1398 (42.7) overall from the floor. Rotnei has always been a great free throw shooter as well, making 280 of 322 career attempts for 86.9%.