Bahn: Clarke Departure Leaves Razorbacks 0-For-2008 Recruiting; Program Can Move On Now

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Jun. 20, 2011 10:00 am  

Arkansas had the No. 15 ranked recruiting class in 2008. No players remain from that class. (Photo by Rivals.com)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Arkansas was supposed to be building the foundation of its basketball future with the 2008 recruiting class. It was a collection of high school, prep school and junior college talent that included four players ranked among the country’s top 150.

Rivals.com rated the class No. 15 overall. Some outlets had it ranked higher.

Seemingly, the group had it all. Every piece a coach and program could want to build around was there: a lightning-quick, playmaking point guard; athletic wings; versatile big men and a phenomenal shooter.

But the cornerstone of potential championships crumbled. Quickly at first. Then it slowed, but piece-by-piece the heralded recruiting class fell apart, hastening the exit of former Coach John Pelphrey and his staff.

Forward Montrell McDonald lasted less than a semester. Forwards Jason Henry, Andre Clark and Brandon Moore were gone by the end of 2008-09. Point guard Courtney Fortson made it two years. Most forget Terrance Joyner was supposed to be part of the class, but couldn’t make it into school.

Guard Rotnei Clarke  appeared to be the one player that would make it four years. Clarke was perceived as the most stable player in the group. He led the team in scoring as a junior and had a reputation in some circles as a good citizen off the floor.

But even Clarke, who is supposed to be finalizing his departure today, couldn’t make it with the Razorbacks. He considered leaving when Pelphrey was fired in March, but agreed to stay after Mike Anderson was hired in April. Then changed his mind again, hurting himself and the program in the process.

By agreeing to stay — and talking with Little Rock media about his decision to stay — that led Arkansas to cut ties with players it was pursuing in case spots opened up on the team. Player turnover is a natural byproduct of a coaching change. It happens everywhere, but rarely this late in the process.

Clarke's requests to leave shouldn't have come as a surprise, considering he routinely flirted with the idea of leaving. Now he is no longer with the program, though details are hazy. What we do know is that Clarke went to a national media outlet Friday to vent his frustration with the program and Anderson.

Any member of the Arkansas administration that could have handled a transfer request was out of the office last week. They were attending a national convention and making plans to get back to family for Father's Day as soon as the convention ended.

Clarke didn't like the time the process was taking and went to CBSSports.com. Hours later Anderson announced to the team Clarke was gone.

By airing his grievances and ending his time with the Razorbacks, Clarke lent a weird bit of consistency to a wildly inconsistent, but talented bunch of players from that 2008 recruiting class. Not a single member of that group understood during their time here what it took to thrive as part of a team.

 

 

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