You know Kelly and Rocky.
You know Rotnei and Conley.
But do you know, the least famous Clarke of them all?
Cassie Clarke introduced herself to those attending the 31st installment of the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic in impressive fashion, scoring a tournament-high 30 points to help her team — Verdigris — knock off once-beaten Okarche 55-47 during a first-round game Thursday afternoon inside the Kerr Activities Center.
Kelly Clarke, Cassie’s uncle, has coached the Verdigris boys basketball team to three consecutive Class 3A state semifinal showings. Rocky Clarke, another uncle of Cassie’s, has stockpiled state championships during an impressive eight-year run at Washington (where he’s led the Lady Warriors to three gold balls and a silver since 2003).
And then there’s Cassie’s brother Rotnei Clarke, who averaged 37 points per game as a junior, including a monstrous 60-point effort in a state tournament victory over Vian.
Heck, even Cassie’s dad Conley is a big name in the sport she loves so dearly. Conley Clarke was named the director of basketball operations at Oral Roberts University this year after helping Kelly out at Verdigris as an assistant coach last season.
All those male Clarkes have been in the spotlight a ton over the last two basketball seasons. And deservedly so.
But what about Cassie? She stacks up well with her male relatives but is still the Rodney Dangerfield of the family.
However, that is starting to change. And Cassie could open up even more eyes if her three-day stay in Ada continues anywhere close to the way it started.
“Sometimes I kind of feel like I’m in the shadow of Rotnei because of all the publicity he gets,” Cassie admitted. “He deserves it. He works so hard. It’s kind of cool being the sister of Rotnei Clarke. But sometimes when someone comes up to me and says ‘hey, you’re the sister of Rotnei Clark’, I say, ‘My Name is Cassie’.”
En route to leading her team to the 3A state tournament a year ago, Cassie poured in a career-high 42 points against Keys in a regional championship contest (that Verdigris won 54-44). It’s not 60, but it’s certainly a spectacular outing in a big contest.
Her coach, Gary Kennemer, said Cassie is well deserving of any and all publicity she receives.
“It’s a little bit frustrating when she sees stuff in a newspaper about her and it says Cassie and in parentheses Rotnei Clarke’s sister,” he said. “I think she’s done enough to be recognized as Cassie. She’s been to the state tournament a couple of times, been on the all-tournament team up there and has been a conference MVP. I do think at times she gets lost in the shuffle. But she’s handled all that well.”
Rocky had nothing but praise for his talented niece.
“She’s been overshadowed by Rotnei. If he wasn’t in the mix, everybody would be talking about her. She’s a great kid. She works just as hard as Rotnei does and nobody knows that. It’s always Rotnei, Rotnei, Rotnei and this is Rotnei’s little sister, Cassie. One of these days it could be Cassie’s big brother, Rotnei,” he said.
Rocky said he’s glad Cassie is getting the opportunity to compete in a tournament as prestigious as the Mid-America Classic.
“Down here, she’s on her own stage and I love that for her,” he said.
Entering into the 2007-08 season, Washington has been labeled as one of the favorites to capture the Class 3A state championship after rolling to a 2A title last year. Now, however, Cassie’s team — Verdigris — could stand in the way of Rocky and the Lady Warriors.
Neither Cassie or Rocky were comfortable thinking about such a 3A showdown.
“I wouldn’t like that. I really wouldn’t like it. It would make me sad. You don’t want her to lose. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings to get beat by her, I love her that much,” Rocky said.
“He’s an amazing person. A good Godly person and a good role model. He’s a great coach. He’s someone you would really like to play for,” Cassie said of her uncle Rocky. “I think playing against him would be weird. I’m not sure if I would like it or not.”
The bigger question posed to Rocky was could Cassie crack the starting lineup at Washington?
“Maybe,” he said with a sly smile.
Even though she’s only a junior, Cassie is already getting looks by a number of Division I colleges, including the University of Oklahoma.
“She’s going to play Division I basketball, there’s no doubt about that. There are a lot of Division I schools after her, including OU,” Rocky said. “She’s a great kid. Along with being a great player, she’s a good Christian kid and that’s a bigger compliment for her.”
And while she’s catching up quickly to brother Rotnei in the public eye, she hopes to surpass him in another way in the not-so-distant future.
“We actually played one-on-one two nights ago and he got me. But one day I’ll be able to get him. I’m working on it,” she said.
Kennemer said one thing is for certain. She’s certainly no stranger to opposing coaches.
“Those people know who she is. With the gimmicks and stuff we’re starting to see defensively, there’s no doubt they know who she is,” he said.
Ada, meet Cassie Clarke.
You know Kelly and Rocky.