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Rotnei Clarke’s father expects him to play against Gonzaga

Jan 14, 2013, 5:20 PM EST

Rotnei Clarke, Jamal Lewis AP

Rotnei Clarke gave college basketball fans a “hold your breath” moment on Saturday when he was taken off the court on a stretcher after he was fouled by Matt Derenbecker on a breakaway lay-up and crashed head-first into the basket support in a 79-73 victory over Dayton.

Turns out that Clarke sustained no spinal damage in the incident, but there is no timetable for his return.

Well, mark down Conley Clarke, Rotnei’s father, as one of those who thinks his sharpshooting son will return sooner rather than later.

The Bulldogs, ranked no. 14, play at home against no. 9 Gonzaga on Saturday.

“If they’re thinking about not letting him play Saturday,” the father said, “they’re going to have to take him to another county.”

David Woods of the Indianapolis Star reported in the story that Clarke was back shooting in the gym on Sunday, so that’s a good sign. Conley added that his son will abide by the doctor’s advice. An MRI revealed a significant neck sprain.

“His spinal cord and cervical discs were viewed normal,” Galloy said. “Right now, he’s sore and stiff, but he’s out of the collar. The next question is when he can resume contact.”

Getting Clarke back would be a huge help offensively against a team like Gonzaga, who are pretty good on the perimeter. They shoot 36.5-percent from three. I’m not sure he could guard Kevin Pangos one-on-one — or if Brad Stevens would even let him — but his deep-threat abilities could force forwards to come out on screens and picks and open up the inside for Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall.

Clarke is averaging a team-leading 16.2 points per game this season.

As far as what his dad has said, that sounds like a parent saying what parents say. Neck sprains really effect ones ability to play well when rotating in a zone on the perimeter and generally limits court vision — no way to keep your head on a swivel if you can’t move it. I’d expect this week might be the best treatment week ever for Clarke. Neck massages for everyone!

David Harten is the editor and founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.