By Becca Bornhorst
Back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game is something many college basketball players only dream about.
The Butler Bulldogs lived this dream the last two seasons, and senior guard Rotnei Clarke, a transfer to Butler from Arkansas, wants to be a part of the success.
“The two Final Fours and success the last two years obviously popped out in my mind,” Clarke said about his transfer decision. “I thought, obviously, they were doing something right.”
Clarke, a junior with only one year left of basketball eligibility, made the decision to come to Butler just two weeks prior to the 2011-2012 school year.
“I know that we’re going to be put in a position to win, and that’s all that really mattered to me,” Clarke said. “We had three pretty rough seasons at Arkansas, and whether I was in the SEC or not, it still wasn’t very fun because we didn’t win very much.”
The Razorbacks won fewer games than the Oklahoma native would have hoped, and the entire coaching staff was fired after last season.
The NCAA denies any Division I transfer the right to participate in competition without sitting out for one entire year. This rule allows Clarke to serve only as a practice player for Butler’s current season, making the following season his first and last with the Bulldogs.
“A lot of times you’d be leery about bringing in a one-year guy,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “The questions you have to ask are: is he a guy that is going to make your team better for two years, is he a great teammate and how impactful will he be once he gets on that floor? The answer is a resounding positive to all three questions.”
The sharpshooter Clarke takes 600 shots every day to prepare for his senior season in a blue uniform.
“He is in the gym all the time, and that makes other people follow [his lead],” Stevens said. He’ll really stretch us in practice all year, and he’s going to make our young guys a lot better. He’s probably the best practice player in the country.”
“This year is going to be really tough just because I’m not going to be able to play,” Clarke said.
Due to NCAA restrictions, Clarke will not travel with the Bulldogs this season, forcing the new Bulldog into unfamiliar territory.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve just had to sit and watch basketball,” Clarke said. “I’m going to try and make my teammates better as much as I can without actually being able to step on the floor. I can’t travel, but I’ll be cheering them on at home games.”
Clarke said he was also attracted to Butler’s team because of the chemistry he felt between the other players when he visited campus.
“We didn’t have a really good team chemistry with our team at Arkansas,” Clarke said. “It is important for chemistry within a team, and they seemed like more friends than just teammates.”
Senior point guard Ronald Nored said Clarke already fits right in with the team.
“He has come, and it seriously feels like we have all been really tight for a long time,” Nored said. “He is a fun, funny guy to have in the locker room and just a great teammate in general. We are already best friends, so I am thankful that we got a guy like him to join our program.”
Although Clarke is a nearly a full calendar year away from playing in a regular season game, one thing is certain: Stevens and Clarke’s new teammates said they are happy he chose to transfer to Butler.
“He has an opportunity to make an immediate and big impact in the Horizon League,” he said. “After having a year of really familiarizing himself with what we do, he will be 100 percent ready when his time comes next year.”