By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 20, 2006
Senior guard Chris Rodgers said Friday that he believes he'll be back playing basketball for Arizona head coach Lute Olson this season, despite being dismissed by the coach earlier in the week.
A return looked all but bleak, but after the Wildcat's win over Stanford Thursday, Olson said the door was open slightly for Rodgers to return.
In an interview with the Arizona Daily Wildcat Friday, Rodgers said that many hold misconceptions about who he is and that he is determined to come back and win with the men's basketball team.
When asked whether he believes he will return to the team, Rodgers said "Yeah." "I'm just trying to get back to my team so we can compete for a championship, that's my main focus," Rodgers said.
The six-foot-4-inch guard from Portland, Ore. has had his share of off-court problems - he was benched for an early non-conference game against Houston and suspended for a game against Washington State last season - but Rodgers said there has been a misconception of him as a person.
"People say [I'm] not a team guy but that's not true whatsoever," Rodgers said. "I've always gotten along. When you have a team it's a family and everybody does not have the same personality. You're supposed to be able to embrace everybody's personality and that's the key, not to single anyone out." Rodgers, who has already graduated with a psychology degree in three and a half years, said he's even keeled.
"You have the outgoing guys, you have extroverts and you have introverts and once you really get to know me, you'll see that I'm even," he said. "I like to go out a lot and I'm pretty quiet. It's just a matter of perception and I am a quiet guy when I go out there, but sometimes you like to go do your own thing and there's nothing wrong with that. You shouldn't be penalized for something like that," he said.
While Olson said it may take a "few weeks" for Rodgers to come back, assuming he abides by the guidelines Olson has set, Rodgers would not put a timetable on his return.
"With this whole situation, I'm very optimistic and I'm taking this as motivation," Rodgers said.
Rodgers' teammates spoke briefly about the situation after the Stanford game, but of those who spoke, all shared junior point guard Mustafa Shakur's thoughts.
"If he handles himself, the way he's supposed to, he'll be back" Shakur said.
Rodgers said he watched Thursday's game and had mixed feelings.
"I'm frustrated in a way but I'm very proud of all the guys because we got a win," he said. Rodgers also said he didn't want to leave the program on a bad note.
I think this moment will define me
"I came into this program with Hassan [Adams], we came into the program together and I'm going to end it with him," Rodgers said. "He needs me out there and he wants me to be out there with him."
Rodgers has also called and apologized to his teammates, according to sources close to the team.
On Friday, Rodgers also apologized to the fans.
"As far as what's going on, I want to say to the fans out there and to my fans that I apologize. I let them down and I feel like they need me out there, this year especially and I am a big part of the team."
Rodgers wants to shed the selfish label and he pointed to several stats to prove his point. Rodgers averaged 26.6 points per game in high school but said he's not a player "who takes 20 shots a game."
He led the team in assist turnover ratio last season, was named Mr. Hustle by his teammates his freshman season, and won co-defensive MVP honors his sophomore season, also in a vote by his teammates.
"I don't see myself as a person who is a selfish player by any means," he said.
"I am a team guy, I play defense every night, my whole career.
"If I'm a selfish player, then why did I have a high assist-turnover ratio? So that's a big misconception and I needed that to be said."
"I think another reason I'm misconceived because in high school, I came out of a program where I was a big time scorer so right there coming in, it gives you the impression this guy can be selfish."
Olson spoke with Rodgers on Thursday about possibly returning to the team but neither would disclose what was said.
"I am working very closely with the coaching staff and my relationship with them and my teammates is good and strong and it's only going to get better. Out of all the years I've been here, this is the closest I've been to all my teammates," Rodgers said.
"I've always been a person who always felt like the truth will set you free," he said. "I live by that. The fact that at the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror and breathe normally and I can breathe freely and say that I did the right thing and I'm an honorable person.
"There is a misconception about me. Yeah, I am a quiet person and you have to get to know me but don't misunderstand. Me and Ivan are really close friends and I have relationships with everybody," he said.
Rodgers said he sees himself as an underdog.
"Gladiator and Braveheart, those movies define me," he said. "I've always been like the underdog. I'm always just working as hard as I can to be the best person I can be and just to try to get my opportunity."
Rodgers said his family has been very supportive of him, and he often confides in Damon Burns, who he calls his brother.
"He's my support system," Rodgers said.
Whether Rodgers comes back to the team or goes on with his life is unclear, but one thing that Rodgers does understand is the magnitude of the situation.
"I think this moment will define me," he said.