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Shooting for a larger role: Back from NBA draft, Rodgers looks to start

Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior guard Chris Rodgers shoots past Washington during the Wildcats' 91-82 win Jan. 27 in McKale Center. Rodgers, back from the NBA draft, looks to start this season.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 17, 2005
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When senior guard Chris Rodgers declared for the NBA draft over the summer, most people were stunned and confused.

Rodgers was not listed on any major pre-draft Web site, and news of his declaration was only publicly acknowledged locally.

That was the precise reason Rodgers decided he would throw his name out there - open himself up to NBA scouts and make his name known in league circles.

Because after all, the NBA is where Rodgers imagines himself being after this season.

"I wanted to show people what I can do," he said. "On this team, we have a lot of great players, and sometimes you get overlooked or you don't get to do what you know you're capable of doing. I felt like it was my time to get some experience and start looking forward to the next level."

Rodgers worked out for several NBA teams, including the Phoenix Suns, but did not go to the Chicago predraft camp and could not go to Portsmouth, Va., where only seniors are allowed.

Scouts were impressed by his game, but told him he needed to be more of a contributor.

"They said that I have potential, but I have to get my opportunity on this team," Rodgers said.

"If I had went somewhere where I was the man, I would probably already be in the league," he said.

Rodgers agreed with the scouts' assessment and believes his game is more suited toward the NBA anyway.

"Anyone who has seen me play knows, whether it's in pick-up or it's in a summer pro league, games where I can play my game and be creative. ... I definitely think I have a pro game," he said.

However, when all was said and done, Rodgers was back on campus, withdrawing from the draft because he never hired an agent. He was back to working on his game, being the same gym rat he has been over the last three seasons.

"For me, it wasn't really thinking, 'Oh, I'm definitely going to come out for sure this year,'" he said. "It was more just the experience and (to) just kind of see where I'm at a little bit."

The 6-foot-4 Rodgers is entering his senior season having averaged 5.5 points and 19.1 minutes per game last season, but has helped the team in many other areas.

In his freshman season, Rodgers won the team's Mr. Hustle award, and the following year, he was named co-defensive MVP by his teammates.

On the court, Rodgers is as unselfish as they come, playing hard-nosed defense, diving for loose balls and deferring to teammates.

Rodgers' absence in last season's loss to Washington State was representative of how important his defensive pressure is to Arizona.

The Cougars' Thomas Kelati scored 27 points while Rodgers sat, suspended for the game by Arizona head coach Lute Olson for not fulfilling team responsibilities.

This should be the year, however, in which Rodgers will up his role on the court, as Olson will call on him to become more of a scorer in the absence of Salim Stoudamire.

"Chris is going to have a great year," Olson said. "He's always been one of our top defenders. ... He's a good shooter. He just needs game time to get his confidence."

Rodgers, a Portland, Ore., native like Stoudamire, averaged 26.6 points per game as a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School.

"I got some scoring experience, I know how to put the ball in the hole," Rodgers said. "It's just a matter of what they're looking for and (my) being out on the court. I can shoot the 3."

Olson may also call upon Rodgers to become more of a team leader in his final season. Rodgers isn't as vocal as fellow seniors Hassan Adams and Isaiah Fox but hopes that his actions speak louder than his words.

"I'm more of a quiet guy, I let my game speak," Rodgers said. "I'm not really a big talker. I'm more of a quiet assassin. ... You have to let your game speak. I'm not a big fan of guys who have to talk. You just have to go out there and show people what you can do."

Rodgers said he was "born ready" when it comes to giving leadership, and that when the opportunity comes knocking, he would open the door.

"Some guys are given the road but don't come through. Other guys haven't been given the road so you can't really see it," he said.

Rodgers and Olson finally seem to be on the same page, and Rodgers will likely receive an increased amount of minutes this season.

Rodgers said declaring for the draft taught him that the most important thing about being a successful player is to be at the right place at the right time.

"There's a lot of guys in the league who aren't averaging 20 points a game but have been in the league 10 years," he said. "They're just fortunate to be in a good situation."

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