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Getting To Know: Seton Hall's Desi Rodriguez - Jan 16, 2017


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DAVID EDOLE
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Desi
Rodriguez
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.'   



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