Here is a sentence you never thought you would read…..Kentucky is battling Oral Roberts University for one of its top recruiting targets. Now that certainly is odd. Rotnei Clarke, the sharpshooting 3 point marksman who is one of the two best long-distance shooters in America is trying to make his decision as to where he will attend college and it looks as if Oral Roberts (home of former tele-evangelists and the statute above) is in the race. ORU has recently employed Clarke’s dad in the athletics department and many have speculated that this will mean Clarke will be headed to Tulsa to play for his dad. But is this really true?
We had Rotnei Clarke on our radio show last week and his comments were interesting (and unfortunately were not taped which is why we havent had the interview on here). He said that at this point he only has two visits scheduled, Kentucky and Gonzaga. I asked him to name his top schools and he mentioned, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. Fair enough. So then I asked what happened to Kansas (who had been towards the top before) and he mentioned that they had seemingly backed off. So I asked about Oral Roberts and he said that while his dad being there was nice, it would have no impact on where he went to school and he hinted strongly that they werent a solid contender for his services.
So how do we square this information with the so-called “buzz” around the national recruiting circles that Rotnei is ORU bound. There are two schools of thought. One, Rotnei is simply not letting on to others just how serious he is about ORU and that will be his ultimate destination no matter what he says publically. For the record, I dont buy this one bit. The second is that “buzz” around national recruiting analysts is very often wrong and is not a good substitute for what one gets from talking directly to the kid. Last year, every time we would report that Patrick Patterson had Kentucky as a co-leader, someone would write that people “in the know” knew that it had long ago been decided that it was either Duke or Florida and that Kentucky was out. But where did they get that info? Did Patrick say it? Obviously not…..if you spoke to Patrick or his mother often, you knew that Duke had no shot whatsoever. The “buzz” was different, but the kids comments showed his true feelings.
Which brings me back to Rotnei. For the past three years, I have interviewed kids and tried to get a notion of where they would go to school. Sometimes kids are impossible to read. I never could get a true handle on where JJ Hickson would go to school and thus whatever decision he would have made would have not surprised me in the least. Sometimes you get a notion not where of a kid is going but where he isnt. It was obvious to Rob and I from the get go that the day Brandon Wright went to ACC country, Kentucky would not get him…..the tone in his voice was just different. And then sometimes you know where a kid is going no matter what he says. AJ Stewart was a Cat from the moment that UK wanted him….and no matter how hard he might try to convince otherwise, it was obvious.
With Rotnei, I cannot firmly say that he will be coming to Kentucky or that he wont go to Gonzaga, Oklahoma, etc. However the excitement is simply not there when talking about ORU. He never mentions them as part of any list he gives me, he always talks about winning “national championships” and his criteria for what he is looking for in a school contains none of the trademarks of an Oral Roberts type program. Could he change his mind and end up in the end at ORU due to the family connection? Sure. Could he be pulling a fast one on everybody and secretly harboring a wish to go to ORU and validate the national “buzz?” Well maybe….but if so, he is a better actor than Jesus Shuttleworth. Maybe the “buzz” knows something that we dont….but for now, color me skeptical.