Bench role fine with me: Clarke

GOOD FIT: Hawks import Rotnei Clarke is happy to be deployed from the benchafter scoring 22 points against New Zealand last week. Picture: Getty Images
GOOD FIT: Hawks import Rotnei Clarke is happy to be deployed from the benchafter scoring 22 points against New Zealand last week. Picture: Getty Images

NEW Illawarra super-sub Rotnei Clarke says he’s more than comfortable coming off the pine for the Hawks having spent most of his recent European career as a bench weapon. 

The former league MVP has struggled for offensive fluency since posting 23 points in the Hawks emphatic round one win over Adelaide but found his groove against New Zealand last Sunday.

His 22 points and four assists from the bench in a team-high 27 minutes on the floor helped the Hawks to their second 100-plus score of the season.

Coach Rob Beveridge is likely to continue the approach against the Wildcats in Perth on Sunday and Clarke said he’s happy for the ploy to continue.

“Bevo came up to me before the game and told me he was going to go with Whitey [Kevin White] and I was fine with that,” Clarke said.

“I’m willing to sacrifice whatever needs to be sacrificed for the betterment of the team and that’s obviously what he thought was best for that game.

“I’ve been used to coming off the bench that past year or so in Europe so I had my mindset ready and knew I was just going to play as hard as I could and do what I could to help the team win.

“It obviously worked well, Whitey and the rest of the starters set the tone for us. I think as a team it gave us a lot of confidence and it showed us what we can do when we actually have the mindset of going out and being prepared right from the jump.”

Rob Beveridge said post-match the move was aimed at taking some pressure off his star import who’s admittedly taken some time to re-adjust to the NBL after two years playing in Europe.

“It really has been tough because I’ve had to change my mindset,” Clarke said.

“In Europe the game is just so much slower. The team I played on last year was a really high level team so I just came in and had a certain role. I didn’t have to come in and worry about scoring a tonne of points or being extremely aggressive.

“It was tough going from that and coming here and trying to re-set my mind to being aggressive every time I take the floor but Bevo’s helping me with that and the guys are helping me with that.

“They’re just telling me ‘keep taking shots, keep taking risks and being aggressive because that’s going to help us’.”

The ‘former MVP’ tag can be a heavy one to wear but Clarke insists the only pressure he’s felt comes from his own desire to succeed. 

“I don’t think it was pressure from the fact I’m a former MVP and I need to perform in that way I just felt I needed to step it up, and the guys needed to step it up because as a team we didn’t start well,” Clarke said.

“I feel like we’re getting better each game and we’re starting to find ourselves and I feel like we’re all starting to get on the same page and the more that happens the better we’re going to be.”

That drive toward perfection extends to his three-point shooting and Clarke remains confident he re-discover his long-range sharpness.

“For me I expect every one to go in so when it doesn’t I get a little irritated," he said.

“It can be frustrating when you go through a little bit of a slump but I know I’m putting in the work. I take that into each game knowing I’ve worked extremely hard to get where I am and eventually it’ll start falling into place.”


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