- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
VCU glad spark plug Rodriguez stayed put
Team leader iced plans to transfer
SAN ANTONIO | Late Sunday night, Joey Rodriguez sat on a plane from Chicago to Richmond, Va. He couldn’t sleep. Rapper Wiz Khalifa’s anthem “The Race” pounded through his headphones. The song turned Rodriguez’s thoughts from the win over Purdue that propelled Virginia Commonwealth University into the Sweet 16 to one choice that changed the course of his life.
All of this - VCU’s three straight wins in the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed, the national attention that drew 163 media requests this week, Friday’s matchup with Florida State in the Alamodome - almost never happened.
Two years ago, Rodriguez decided to leave. The team’s chatty point guard - he bounces up and down when talking, barely able to contain the energy - wanted to be closer to his Merritt Island, Fla., home. And he didn’t want any part of the transition to new coach Shaka Smart after Anthony Grant took the Alabama job.
“Once he left, I was ready to go,” said Rodriguez, who averages 10.7 points and five assists per game. “My family wanted me around because they saw how down I was.”
In April 2009, Rodriguez announced he’d transfer to Rollins College, a Division II school in Winter Park, Fla. But he never enrolled. Instead, he watched VCU’s individual workouts.
“He came to watch and look at us and try to figure us out,” Smart said.
With no point guards on the roster, Smart started recruiting one. Rodriguez noticed. A recruiting push from teammates Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell followed. Nixon scoffed at the thought of his friend playing Divison II basketball.
“At the end of the day, he really didn’t want to leave,” Nixon said. “He was just upset about losing a close coach and not knowing what would come next. Everybody had thoughts of transferring. But our bond was really strong.”
The change in coaching style from Grant to Smart threw Rodriguez off. Grant’s demeanor had Rodriguez regularly second-guessing his on-court decisions. Smart is more hands-off, and Rodriguez feels more freedom, more trust.
Second thoughts came quickly to Rodriguez. Indecision is a trait, he concedes. This wasn’t an exception. Finally, he junked plans to enroll for the summer session at Rollins College and asked Smart for another chance.
Smart accepted him back on one condition: He had to have both feet in the circle. Rodriguez said yes.
“Things would be a lot different if I hadn’t made that decision,” Rodriguez said. “Things have been gravy ever since.”
Rodriguez surveyed the locker room Thursday afternoon. Television cameras, piles of boxed lunches, reporters wielding tape recorders and microphones competing for space with players texting and snapping photos with cellphones. This was more media attention than VCU would get in a full season. Insane, he said.
Rodriguez is only 5-foot-10 and looks more like a manager than the maestro of an offense scoring 71.9 points per game. But he’s directed wins over Florida State, Georgetown and Purdue in the NCAA tournament, while becoming VCU’s all-time leader in games and minutes.
“He’s the undisputed leader on the team,” assistant coach Mike Jones said. “He’s our toughest player, too. When the game is on the line, you know you can count on him.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- FENNO: Honestly, Mike Shanahan, why should we believe you now?
- Robert Griffin III surprised at being benched by Mike Shanahan
- FENNO: High schooler Chris Cotillo balances MLB scoops, Spanish homework
- Turmoil now a major part of Redskins' game plan
- Mike Shanahan says he'd like to return to Redskins
Latest Blog Entries
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- House pushes through two-year Ryan-Murray budget deal
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- N. Korean news agency: Kim Jong Un's uncle executed
- U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion tops $17 trillion for first time
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Chef Mary Moran discusses the food we eat, where it comes from and what it does for us.
An informed and often humorous take on the world of advertising, public relations and social media. 100% Pure. Not from concentrate.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow