By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
Brad Stevens is more than prepared for the questions regarding whether or not Rotnei Clarke will be Butler’s starting point guard for the upcoming season.
Clarke, who sat out last year after transferring from Arkansas, made his mark during the first three years of his college career with long range accuracy and the ability to go for 30-plus points on a given night. Facilitating and creating for others weren’t the first two things you thought of when you were asked to describe Clarke’s game — but don’t tell that to Stevens.
“I don’t just think Rotnei can play point guard, I think he’s a really good point guard,” Stevens said of the 6-foot Clarke, who averaged 15.2 points per game for the Razorbacks during the 2010-11 season. “He makes plays for other people and he can obviously make plays for himself. He’s a difficult guy to guard when it’s all said and done.”
Clarke, who will be Butler’s most seasoned player when the Bulldogs join the Atlantic 10 next season has made major physical alterations to his body during his red shirt year.
“He’s completely different than he was at Arkansas,” Stevens said of Clarke. “Rotnei’s made a huge leap in the weight room. He’s much stronger now. He’s someone who’s always working on his game. He’s in the gym all the time.”
With Clarke holding down the floor general position and veterans Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith set at power forward and center, Butler should be more than ready to compete on a nightly basis in what is gradually becoming one of the more of the talked about conferences in all of college basketball.
Marshall and Smith both played integral roles on the Bulldogs 2011 team that reached the national championship game and lost to UCONN. Butler also has a terrific shooter coming in freshman Kellen Dunham and Stevens is also banking on brute small forward Roosevelt Jones to have a major impact.
“He can physically play basketball or football in any league in the country,” Stevens said of the 6-4, 220 pound Jones, who averaged 7.8 points and six rebounds per game as a freshman. “We expect him to have a great sophomore season. With Roosevelt, Kameron Woods, and Erik Fromm along with Khyle (Marshall) and Andrew (Smith), we’ve got our entire front court of our front court back and I like that.”
Once viewed as mid major darlings, Butler is now going to be seen in an entirely different light. A new league presents new expectations and more regular tests against a high level of competition.
“I’m excited about it and I know our guys are too,” Stevens said of joining the Atlantic 10. “We have an understanding of what’s ahead. We know we’re going to be playing some of the best teams around on a nightly basis. ”
Your thoughts on Butler’s chances? Be heard in the comments below!