Wizards pre-draft workouts: Rotnei Clarke gets District vibe via Wale

June 3, 2013

(Associated Press)

Former Butler point guard Rotnei Clarke was waiting to catch a flight at the Indianapolis airport roughly six weeks ago when he spotted rapper Wale, who hails from the District and is a avid supporter of the Washington Wizards. Clarke watched as others in the terminal approached the popular performer, only to find out he was telling hopeful autograph seekers they had mistaken his identity.

But Clarke knew Wale was the real thing, so he politely asked if he would to pose for a picture. Wale accepted, and Clarke went to Twitter, posting the image and a message that read: “No big deal, jus me and Wale!!”

Monday afternoon, Clarke was in the nation’s capital happily discussing that encounter following an audition with the Wizards, who held their first day of pre-draft workouts in advance of the June 27 NBA draft. Washington owns the third overall pick and two additional picks in the second round.

During this first week of workouts, the Wizards’ front office and coaching staff are evaluating players who most likely will be available in the second round, and that includes Clarke, who transferred to Butler for his senior year after playing his first three seasons at Arkansas. He ended up as a first-team all-Atlantic 10 selection for the Bulldogs.

“It went really well,” Clarke said. “I had a lot of fun. It was a good experience to be here. Very appreciative of the opportunity. Guys worked hard, and it was a good workout.”

Clarke was among six players who worked out Monday for approximately two hours. The others were guards Tyler Brown (Illinois State), Miguel Paul (East Carolina) and Angelo Sharpless (Elizabeth City State), and centers Gregory Echenique (Creighton) and Ehimen Orukpe (Wichita State).

Although he did not get a chance to become reacquainted with John Wall, Clarke discussed playing against the Wizards starting point guard when both were in college. Wall played one season at Kentucky before the Wizards made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2010.

“He’s a complete point guard,” Clarke said of Wall. “It obviously would be an honor to be able to be a part of this organization.”

As for his brush with stardom at the Indianapolis airport, Clarke recalled Wale wearing gear from Indiana University. Wale had performed in Bloomington, Ind., the night before, bringing Hoosiers forward Victor Oladipo and other members of the team on stage for the song “Back 2 Ballin’.”

Clarke mentioned the feud between Butler and Indiana for bragging rights in the Hoosier state and how “Butler’s not really fans of IU.” But the opportunity to meet Wale superseded Clarke’s distaste for the rapper’s sartorial choices.

“I was actually going home” to Arkansas, Clarke said. “I didn’t give him any crap about it. He had a lot of IU stuff on. He had just come from a concert they did at Indiana. He was telling a lot of people that he wasn’t Wale, and I knew who he was, so I said: ‘I need a picture. I’ve got to prove to my teammates that you’re in the airport because they don’t believe me.’ “

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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