By Sean Brennan In our latest installment of 'Getting To Know,' we chat up the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Week, Seton Hall's Desi Rodriguez (198-F-96). Desi dishes on why coming to Seton Hall along with his former teammate Isaiah Whitehead was a no-brainer, why he doesn't think he gets lost in the shadow of teammates Angel Delgado and Kahdeen Carrington, why Pirates head coach Kevin Willard thinks Rodriguez is a 'dog,' - and Desi agrees - why he may be a little 'crabby' off the court, why being the last team to defeat Villanova last season before the Cats' championship run is motivation for the Pirates this year and when we can expect a Seton Hall sighting in the Top 25.
BIGEAST.com: When you were playing at Lincoln high School in Brooklyn with Isaiah Whitehead, did you guys ever discuss going to college together or did it just turn out that way?
RODRIGUEZ: 'During our senior year when we started gelling and playing well together we definitely started talking about going to school together. I wanted to play with him and keep the combination going. So when Seton Hall offered me I didn't think twice about it.'
BIGEAST.com: So you, Isaiah, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado arrive at Seton Hall like you're the Fab Four. Did you guys ever feel any pressure, because of the hype surrounding that recruiting class, to live up to the high expectations?
RODRIGUEZ: 'We didn't feel any pressure. We're all tough and aggressive and we're competitors so we didn't feel any pressure. We knew we could become great, so coming in together and working on our games and just playing together more has turned out well.'
BIGEAST.com: So Isaiah has left for the NBA, Angel is leading the BIG EAST in rebounding and is a double-double machine and Khadeen is second in the conference in scoring. Do you ever feel like maybe you get less attention than your teammates?
RODRIGUEZ: 'I don't look at it that way. I just want to play my game and help my team win and everything will come out of that. I let my game speak for itself and if people don't believe in my game, I don't pay any attention to that. I just come on the court, give my best effort and try to win games.'
BIGEAST.com: For someone who hasn't seen you play, what kind of player is Desi Rodriguez?
RODRIGUEZ: 'Coach (Kevin Willard) calls me a 'Junkyard Dog' and I think I'm that kind of guy. My all-around game has come around very well. I'm able to shoot the ball very well now and get to the basket. I'm an aggressive kind of guy and I'm competitive so I always want to guard the best player on the other team, if I get a chance. I'm a winning guy. That's always my goal. If I finish the game with two points and we got a win I'm still happy. I'm very unselfish and just want to win.'
BIGEAST.com: Tell me something about yourself that even Pirates fans don't know about you. Do you have any hobbies or hidden talents away from the court?
RODRIGUEZ: 'This year I got a new apartment and I've been cooking a lot. I'm a great cook now. A lot of people wouldn't know that I'm a great cook, but I am.'
BIGEAST.com: So what's your specialty?
RODRIGUEZ: 'Seafood. The other day I made some crab legs with shrimp and broccoli. Sometimes I cook for my teammates. We all cook for each other and see who is the best. It's like a competition.'
BIGEAST.com: When Isaiah left for the NBA what was your reaction and what do you say to people who thought Seton Hall would struggle this year without him?
RODRIGUEZ: 'It was weird. I was kind of depressed, but I was happy for him, too. I was depressed because I thought we could come back this year and be a top 10 team and win another (BIG EAST) championship. But we still have a chance to. We still have a great team. I'm happy for him the way he is playing (with the Brooklyn Nets). But it also opened up a lot of opportunities for the rest of us to get looked at and prove people wrong. A lot of people, with Isaiah leaving, said we wouldn't be the same team but I think we are. It's hard to replace Isaiah Whitehead, but then again we still have Khadeen Carrington, we still got myself, we still got Ismael (Sanogo) and we still got Angel and we added two freshmen (Myles Powell and Eron Gordon) and two transfers (Madison Jones and Jevon Thomas) and those guys are playing great for us. So we're looking forward to finishing the BIG EAST (season) strong and going into the BIG EAST Tournament and finishing that off strong, too.'
BIGEAST.com: Seton Hall won the BIG EAST Tournament last year and put the Pirates back on the map but then you lost your first-round NCAA Tournament game to Gonzaga. Did that leave a bad taste in your mouth and is that your motivation for this season?
RODRIGUEZ: 'Yeah definitely. All of us were nervous about that game. It was our first time in the NCAA Tournament and on the big stage. That was kind of a tough test for us, but knowing we were there last year and knowing the feeling of a bad loss makes us more hungry this year. Seeing Villanova take it all and knowing we were the last team to beat them, that kind of motivated us more. It's our goal to get back to the NCAA Tournament and try our best to win some games.'
BIGEAST.com: The other day against DePaul, you shot 9-for-9 from the field in the first half, including 5-for-5 from three-point range. Have you ever had a half like that before in your life on any level?
RODRIGUEZ: 'No. That was really exciting for me. I was kind of in the mode when I was making everything. I thought making my first two layups really got me going. My team got me the ball so me going 9-for-9, that came from my teammates knowing I was the hot hand and them going back to me. So I appreciate them.'
BIGEAST.com: If coach Willard said to you, 'Desi, I need 18-20 points from you,' are you the kind of player who could deliver that kind of production?
RODRIGUEZ: 'Yeah I think I'm capable of doing that. Teams scout us very well, especially me, Khadeen and Angel, so I take that in consideration and kind of let the game come to me. Coach always tells us don't go out there and try to force anything because it will mess up your game. But 18 points a night is something I could do just going off the offensive glass and getting out in transition.'
BIGEAST.com: Do you think fans around the BIG EAST and college hoop fans in general know who you are or do you feel you need a breakout year this season?
RODRIGUEZ: 'I think they know me very well. Some people call me 'Dunkin' Desi' and some people call me 'Long-Range Desi' so I think a lot of people know me and a lot of teams know me. I think last year was my breakout year and this year I'm trying to get some more recognition.'
BIGEAST.com: Four of the top 15 teams in the country are from the BIG EAST in Villanova, Creighton, Butler and Xavier. Are people going to see Seton Hall cracking the poll before long?
RODRIGUEZ: 'That's our goal, too, to get in the Top 25. Our conference is one of the toughest conferences. Every night we got to bring it. Every team in the BIG EAST is tough and competitive so we got to bring energy every night. We got a week-long road trip right now and we got to handle our business against Marquette (Wednesday night) and Providence (Saturday afternoon) and then we go to Villanova (Monday night). So as long as we take care of business the poll will put us in the Top 25. We just got to keep winning. If you keep winning everything else will fall into place.'
North Texas men's basketball head coach Grant McCasland has announced the hiring of Jareem Dowling as an assistant coaches Friday. Dowling join associate head coach Ross Hodge and assistant James Miller completing McCasland's coaching staff. 'Jareem Dowling has an uncanny ability to help student-athletes reach their full potential on and off the court,' McCasland said. 'He truly cares about our players and helps them grow as men. He has had tremendous success as a head coach and his und... [read more]
North Texas men's basketball head coach Grant McCasland has announced the hiring of Jareem Dowling as an assistant coaches Friday. Dowling join associate head coach Ross Hodge and assistant James Miller completing McCasland's coaching staff.
'Jareem Dowling has an uncanny ability to help student-athletes reach their full potential on and off the court,' McCasland said. 'He truly cares about our players and helps them grow as men. He has had tremendous success as a head coach and his understanding of the game of basketball is a huge asset."
Dowling brings 11 years of collegiate coaching experience to North Texas. Most recently, he spent a year as an assistant coach with McCasland at Arkansas State.
"I'm very fortunate and grateful of the opportunity to work with coach McCasland," Dowling said. "It is a new beginning and we are hoping to strive for greatness one step at a time."
Before ASU, Dowling served as the head coach of the Scotland Performance Institute, a prep school in Scotland, Pennsylvania. While with SPI, Dowling developed several players that went on to earn college scholarships, including three that signed with Division I programs.
Prior to SPI, Dowling spent three seasons at Southern Miss as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He helped the Golden Eagles post a three-year record of 65-37 (.637), while earning a pair of postseason berths. Three players during that span garnered All-Conference USA honors.
In 2013-14, Southern Miss posted a school record 29 wins, claimed a share of the C-USA regular season championship, posted a perfect 15-0 record at home and made its second straight trip to the NIT Quarterfinals. The 2012-13 campaign saw Southern Miss post a 27-10 record and capture its first postseason victories since 1988, as Southern Miss made a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals.
Dowling moved to Southern Miss after spending one season at Morehead State. In his lone season with the Eagles, Dowling assisted with all aspects of the program, including recruiting, practice/game preparation and player development. He was also responsible for monitoring the academic progress of all student-athletes in the program.
He joined Morehead State's staff after three seasons in a similar capacity at Slippery Rock. Dowling helped the Rock to three consecutive winning seasons, including 21-win campaigns in 2008-09 and 2010-11.
Prior to Slippery Rock, Dowling was an assistant to legendary junior college coach Bill Lewit at Cecil College. Dowling's recruiting and scouting contributed to a 97-6 overall record in three seasons from 2005-08.
PAOK Thessaloniki (A1) signed 27-year old Virgin Islander international forward Ivan Aska (201-104kg-90, college: Murray State). He is a dual citizen owning also U.S. Virgin Islands passport. Aska He just played at ET Land in South Korean KBL league. In 25 games he had 14.8ppg, 6.6rpg and 1.3apg this season. Aska also played earlier that season for Ironi Ramat Gan (Winner League) in Israel where in 11 KBL games he recorded very impressive stats: 22.5ppg, 8.3rpg and 2.2apg. He has tried to... [read more]
PAOK Thessaloniki (A1) signed 27-year old Virgin Islander international forward Ivan Aska (201-104kg-90, college: Murray State). He is a dual citizen owning also U.S. Virgin Islands passport. Aska He just played at ET Land in South Korean KBL league. In 25 games he had 14.8ppg, 6.6rpg and 1.3apg this season. Aska also played earlier that season for Ironi Ramat Gan (Winner League) in Israel where in 11 KBL games he recorded very impressive stats: 22.5ppg, 8.3rpg and 2.2apg. He has tried to make it to the NBA and played in the NBA Pro Summer League in 2015. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Aska's college team won OVC Tournament in 2010 and 2012. He was also voted Latinbasket.com All-CBC Championships 1st Team in 2015. Aska represented U.S. Virgin Islands at the CBC Championships in Tortola (British Virgin Islands) two years ago. His team won Gold and his stats at that event were 6 games: 15.8ppg, 8.2rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 39.7%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 71.4%. Aska is quite experienced player. He has played in five different countries on three different continents (Europe, Latin America and of course North America). Aska has played previously professionally in Belgium (Leuven Bears), Germany (ALBA Berlin), Puerto Rico (Cangrejeros), Greece (AE Ikaros Kallitheas) and Israel (Maccabi Ashdod and Ironi Nes Ziona). He attended Murray State until 2012 and it is his fifth season as a professional player.
Walter Hodge selected the top Virgin Islander playing abroad in last week's games - 2 days ago
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We bring you last week's top performances from Virgin Islanders who are playing abroad and who all have had prior experience of national team duties at youth or senior level. This week's number one is an international point guard Walter Hodge (183-86). He led ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket to a victory over the league outsider Entente Orleans 45 in the French ProA in Friday night's game.
We bring you last week's top performances from Virgin Islanders who are playing abroad and who all have had prior experience of national team duties at youth or senior level.
#1. This week's number one is an international point guard Walter Hodge (183-86, college: Florida, currently plays in France). He led ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket to a victory over the league outsider Entente Orleans 45 (6-17) 82-78 in the French ProA in Friday night's game.
Hodge was MVP of the game. He scored 20 points and added 3 assists in 28 minutes on the court.
ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket (12-11) is placed eighth in the ProA.
Hodge has relatively good stats this year: 13.4ppg, 2.0rpg, 5.9apg, 2FGP: 53.0%, 3FGP: 41.4% and FT: 79.2% in 23 games he played so far.
He has a dual citizenship: U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican.
Hodge is currently a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#2. Second place goes to an international center Frank Elegar (208-86, college: Drexel, currently plays in FIBA Europe Cup). He could not help Enisey in their last game on Wednesday. Despite Elegar's very good performance the third-placed Enisey was badly defeated in an overtime 95-79 on the road by the lower-ranked Oostende (#6) in the group P of FIBA Europe Cup.
He recorded a double-double by scoring 17 points and getting 15 rebounds. Elegar also added and 5 steals.
It's Elegar's first season with the team.
He has individually a very good year with high stats. Elegar averages: 16.2ppg, 10.2rpg, 1.3apg, 1.5bpg, 1.4spg, 2FGP: 66.9%(79-118) and FT: 70.3%.
He is another player who holds two passports: U.S. Virgin Islands and Guyanese.
Elegar is in the roster of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#3. The U.S. Virgin Islands player who performed third best last week abroad was an experienced international forward Victor Cuthbert (197-83, college: Murray St., currently plays in South Korea). He was the major contributor in a 3-point ET Land Elephants' victory against the closely-ranked Samsung Thunders (33-20) 81-78 in the South Korean KBL on Wednesday night.
Cuthbert recorded 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 26 minutes.
Inchon ET Land Elephants (25-28) are placed sixth in the KBL.
They ended the series of four consecutive loses.
His team will play only one more game in the Regular Season. And that game will be critical.
This year Cuthbert has relatively solid stats: 11.4ppg, 8.5rpg, 2.0apg, 1.1bpg, 1.9spg, 2FGP: 56.6%(228-403), 3FGP: 29.6% and FT: 62.1% in 53 games.
He is also a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands senior national team.
#4. Forward Jordan Murphy (198-97, currently plays college basketball in the States), who plays in the NCAA was not able to help the Minnesota (10-8) in their last game. Despite his very good performance the Minnesota lost 72-81 in Murfreesboro to the Middle Tennessee State University.
Murphy scored 15 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and dished 3 assists in 31 minutes.
The National Tournament Round 1 already ended in the NCAA.
Murphy has reliable stats this year: 11.3ppg, 8.8rpg and 1.1bpg in 34 games.
He has both American and U.S. Virgin Islands nationalities.
Murphy is also U.S. Virgin Islands national team player.
#5. International center Craig Williams (206-89, college: TCU, currently plays in Japan) was not able to secure a victory for Orange Vikings (24-22) in their last game on Friday. Despite his good performance Orange Vikings (#4) were edged 93-91 in Renova by the lower-ranked Kagoshima (#6) in the West group.
Williams recorded a double-double by scoring 12 points and getting 13 rebounds. He also added and 3 steals.
There are only three games left until the end of the Regular Season. So now every game is very crucial.
Williams' stats this season are: 12.3ppg, 8.4rpg and 1.6apg.
He plays currently for the U.S. Virgin Islands national team.
#6. Center Amadius Der-Weer (201-94, currently plays in NAIA) couldn't help the Talladega College (72-10) in their game against the SW Assemblies of God University (23-9) in the NAIA. Der-Weer cannot count Wednesday's game as one of the best ones.
He recorded only 2 points in 7 minutes on the court.
The Talladega College lost 75-81 in Waxahachie to the SW Assemblies of God University.
The National Tournament Round 1 already ended in the NAIA.
This year Der-Weer's overall stats are: 0.8ppg and 1.3rpg in 12 games.
He is a former U18 international player as he played for the U.S. Virgin Islands team five years ago.
The list of other players, who all have U.S. Virgin Islands passport but never been selected to any of U.S. Virgin Islands national teams:
#1.Rakeem Christmas (206-F-91, college: Syracuse, currently plays in NBA). Christmas could not help the Indiana Pacers (36-35) to beat the Toronto Raptors (42-29).
He scored 6 points and grabbed 5 rebounds.
The Indiana Pacers (36-35) were crushed 116-91 on the road by the Raptors.
Christmas' overall stats this season are: 2.4ppg and 2.4rpg.
#2.Deon Edwin (190-G-92, currently plays college basketball in the States), who plays in the NCAA was not able to help the Kent St. (9-7) in their last game. Despite Edwin's very good performance the Kent St. (#4) was badly defeated 97-80 at home by the Univ.of Calif.at Los Angeles.
He scored 18 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 33 minutes.
The National Tournament Round 1 already ended in the NCAA.
Edwin's stats this year are: 13.1ppg, 5.6rpg, 2.4apg and 1.3spg in 34 games he played so far.
#3.Desi Rodriguez (198-F-96, currently studies in the States), who plays in the NCAA was not able to secure a victory for the Seton Hall (10-8) in their last game on Friday. Despite his good performance the Seton Hall was defeated 77-71 on their home court in South Orange by the The University of Arkansas.
Rodriguez scored 10 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and made 2 blocks.
The National Tournament Round 1 already ended in the NCAA.
Rodriguez has individually a very good season with high stats. He averages: 15.7ppg, 5.2rpg and 1.8apg.
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