Rotnei Clarke flies from Hawks' nest


The Rotnei Clarke era has officially ended at the Wollongong Hawks.

Despite the Hawks's best efforts to keep the 2013-14 NBL MVP at the club, Clarke has accepted a more lucrative offer to play with Okapi Aalstar in Belgium's national league.

The 24-year-old guard was a huge hit in his first year of professional basketball.

He led the Hawks with a 21-point scoring average (fourth in the NBL) and captured the Andrew Gaze Trophy as the league's top player.

Hawks fans were clinging to hope that the club would re-sign Clarke, particularly with the backing of new owner James Spenceley.

"Stating the obvious, our club was very keen to have him back and we put our best foot forward," Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said.

"Rotty was very good for our team on the court and a part of the community. When you get people like that you want to try and keep them in your organisation as long as possible. As a club we endeavoured to do that, but he got a better offer and a better situation and he has to try and take advantage of that. We understand that.

"We're disappointed we're not going to have him back but we're also happy he's in a good situation because he's earned it. When you get someone that fitted in so well and produced what he produced, you want to have him back.

"The reality is that players come to our club and want to show people what they can do, and the ones that can show what they can do get recognised. It's happened a few times to us, but that's just part of the whole basketball process around the world."

McLeod and assistant coaches Matt Flinn and Eric Cooks are seeking a suitable replacement for Clarke, the Hawks's second NBL MVP in four years and the third in club history.

"We're hard at it. We're looking for another one of those guys," he said.

"We've always gone about it that way, looking at a lot of players out there. You evaluate everyone."

Clarke posted a letter to Hawks fans on basketball website, describing his time with the Hawks as "the best experience of my life".

"Before I made the decision to go to Wollongong I thought about how far it was from home and how hard it was going to be. The time flew by because I had so much fun," Clarke wrote.

"Flinny found me in the recruiting process and I want to thank him, Cookie and Gordie and the organisation for taking a chance on me when not a lot of people would."

The Hawks are expected to announce the first of their player re-signings this week.


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