Hogs newcomer earns his keep

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Coty Clarke will be on the Razorbacks' white team on Sunday, featuring only out-of-state players.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Coty Clarke will be on the Razorbacks' white team on Sunday, featuring only out-of-state players.

— Coty Clarke promises he isn’t going to turn into Marshall Henderson, the Ole Miss guard firing up an average of 10.6 three-pointers per game.

“No, no, no,” Clarke said with a smile. “Coach A wouldn’t like that.”

But Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson has no problem with Clarke, a 6-7 junior forward, taking open three-pointers, especially when he’s shooting them the way he did against Missouri last Saturday.

Clarke went 3 of 3 on three-point attempts - after being 3 of 9 in the previous 23 games - and scored 13 points to help the Razorbacks beat the Tigers 73-71.

“I guess they were probably looking back to their scouting report and thinking,‘What’s going on? This guy isn’t supposed to shoot it,’ ” Clarke said. “To hit those shots in a big game really felt good. I haven’t shot a lot of threes, but when I get a chance, I’ll take them.

“They were available, and at that point we were down and struggling to score, so I wanted to help give us some momentum.”

While Arkansas junior forward Marshawn Powell scored 15 of his team-high 24 points in the second half and sophomore guard BJ Young scored 7 of his 18 points in the final 29.3 seconds, Clarke helped the Razorbacks stay within 33-29 at halftime by hitting all of his three-pointers in the first half.

“When you make your first shot - whether it’s a layup, dunk, free throw, whatever - it just boosts your confidence,” Clarke said.“Then you see the next shot that’s available, your percentages of hitting it go up.”

Anderson said Clarke, a transfer from Lawson State Community College in his native Birmingham, Ala., has been shooting well in practice.

“More than anything else, it’s about getting comfortable,” Anderson said. “First of all, you’ve got to get on the floor, so now he’s done things to get himself out on the floor. That was his energy, rebounding the basketball, defensively, his basketball IQ.”

Clarke led the Razorbacks with seven rebounds against Missouri and had two steals. He knocked the ball away from Tigers point guard Phil Pressey, resulting in Arkansas gaining possession with six seconds left with a 72-71 lead.

“Coty’s very versatile,” Young said. “He can play inside, outside. He can bring the ball up the court sometimes. Of course, he can rebound and defend and block shots. He brings a lot of things to the table and makes us a lot better team.”

Clarke is averaging 6.8 points and 4.9 rebounds, to rank third and second on the team, in 18.3 minutes per game. He is also third in steals (27) and blocked shots (14).

“I think he can play better, I really do,” Anderson said.“He’s playing with a lot more aggressiveness, whether it be defensively, offensively. Not thinking as much. Early in the year, he was just trying to find his place with this team. Now I think some of that thinkingis going, and he’s going out and playing.

“The beauty of it is, you’ve got Marshawn and BJ, [junior guard] Mardracus Wade, all those guys encouraging him. They can see the impact he’s having on our program. ”

Clarke received about 20 scholarship offers last year. Other SEC schools that recruited him included Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State and LSU. Oregon, North Carolina State and Nebraska also were interested.

“I was in deep contact with a lot of big-time schools,” Clarke said. “Arkansas came in real late. Before that, I was leaning to Georgia.”

The Razorbacks (16-9, 7-5 SEC) play Georgia (12-13, 6-6) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Walton Arena. It will be the first time Clarke has faced the Bulldogs.

“I’m pretty sure it will be on their minds that it came down to two or three schoolsand it went the other way,” Clarke said. “You look at the season we’re having and the season they’re having and it’s kind of a must-win game for both teams.”

Clarke said he liked Anderson’s recruiting approach that every Razorback had to earn his playing time.

“It’s going to be on me. If I want to play, I have to prove to him that I can play at this level,” Clarke said. “I’d rather fight for a job.”

Clarke had played off the bench before starting the past six games.

“Every player wants to start, and I knew I had to seize the moment,” he said. “Coach isn’t going to be starting me for no reason. I couldn’t just be out there. I had to get it in gear.

“I’m going to stay hungry, keep that edge, keep that chip on my shoulder to help this team get to where we want to be in March.”Clarke at a glance WHO Coty Clarke SCHOOL Arkansas POSITION Forward CLASS Junior HEIGHT 6-7 WEIGHT 225 pounds HOMETOWN Birmingham, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL/JUNIOR COLLEGE Pinson Valley/Lawson State NOTEWORTHY Averaging 6.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 18.2 minutes per game. ... Scored a seasonhigh 20 points in the opener against Sam Houston State. ... Scored an SEChigh 13 points against Mississippi State and Missouri. ... Had a season-high 11 rebounds against Wisconsin. ... Came up with a season-high four steals against Syracuse. ... Has started past six games. ... Has made 6 of 12 three-pointers this season, including 3 of 3 against Missouri last Saturday.

Sports, Pages 20 on 02/20/2013