Daily Egyptian

Surging Salukis run through Rodriguez

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

If the point guard is like the quarterback of the basketball team, consider SIU junior point guard Mike Rodriguez the Tom Brady of the Saluki men’s basketball team. They’re both in-game leaders who want to win above all.

The young guard may not have the accolades of Brady yet, but his leadership and team-first mentality are traits his coaches admire.

The Boston native leads his team with 76 assists through 23 games, which is more than junior forward Sean O’Brien’s team-high of 54 last season.

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Assistant coach Anthony Beane, Sr., who recruited Rodriguez while he was at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa, said he knew Rodriguez needed to be a Saluki.

“When I first saw him play, I fell in love with him … I knew he would be the type of point guard we really needed in our program,” Beane said. “He was a floor general and had all the things we were looking for … great IQ, talent, very explosive and athletic, could get to the rim and shot the ball really well too.”

At SIU, Rodriguez has developed into more than just a scorer — he leads the team with a 2:1 assist-to-tunover ratio. That ranks him in the top 10 percent of all men’s basketball players in the nation and No. 4 in conference.

Rodriguez said playing with teammates who can shoot the ball allows him to be a true point guard for the Dawgs.

“In [junior college], they needed me to score,” he said. “[Here] I can be more of a point [guard]. I don’t have to score as much.”

Senior guard Anthony Beane, Jr. leads the team with 451 points while Rodriguez is No. 4 with 209.

Senior center Ibby Djimde said Rodriguez playing point guard allows Beane and other scorers to get open looks.

“Mike helps out a lot because he makes it easy for Anthony Beane and [junior guard] Leo [Vincent] to get the easy baskets,” he said. “Mike attacks and can pass, which is good for us.”

More consistent playing time has led to Rodriguez finding the confidence he lacked in high school and junior college, when he doubted he would ever play Division I basketball. 

Rodriguez said he had to find confidence in himself after sitting on the bench at Marshalltown, where he posted a 1.53:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“I was playing 10 minutes here and there … I knew I wasn’t a factor,” he said. “I was on the bench of a junior college team that wasn’t that good and behind someone I thought I was better than, but I wasn’t proving it on the court.”

This season Rodriguez has started every game for the 18-5 Salukis and has taken pressure off of Beane. That has led to a 7-3 record in conference and 8-1 record on the road.

Coach Barry Hinson was forced to use Beane as a point guard last season. After watching tape, Rodriguez said he could compare Beane to himself at Marshalltown.

“He looked like me in [junior college], he was trying to make a play every time he touched the ball.” he said. “Now he can pick and choose, and I think that’s why he’s been so efficient this season. He can focus on scoring.”

Hinson said Rodriguez is the best point guard he’s had at SIU, but that he is capable of doing even more.

“He’s played well enough [in conference],” he said. “But I don’t think we’ve seen Mike Rodriguez’s best basketball.”

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333

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