Monday, November 30, 2015

Rodriguez in a groove for K-State

It’s sort of become routine for Angel Rodriguez these days.

On Wednesday, the Kansas State sophomore scored 11 points in the Wildcats’ 83-57 win over Texas. But it’s his ball distribution that’s been impressive.

Rodriguez finished with eight assists and just one turnover, bolstering his Big 12 lead in assist-to-turnover ratio in league games.

Rodriguez has 44 assists and 11 turnovers in Big 12 play — a 4-to-1 ratio. Even more impressive are the 31 assists to just four turnovers he’s had in the last four games.

Although he scored 11 points against the Longhorns, it was on just 3-of-12 shooting. And that’s what Texas coach Rick Barnes said sets Rodriguez apart from other players.

“I think you sum him up with one word — toughness,” he said. “Really good players, even when they’re not shooting well, they effect the game, they find a way to effect the game. All you’ve got to look at — eight assists, one turnover, what he does defensively — he sets the tone for them.

“I think he’s terrific. I don’t think there’s any question there’s a lot of coaches that would love to have him.”

Rodriguez is second to only teammate Will Spradling among Big 12 players in assist-to-turnover ratio on the season. Rodriguez has 91 assists this season, and 35 turnovers.

The Puerto Rico native missed two games before conference play began, sidelined by the combination of an injury and travel difficulties coming back from Christmas.

But Weber said he’s been turning it on ever since then.

“He’s leading the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio in the seven games — that’s what point guards are supposed to do,” he said. “You’re supposed to start our pressure on defense and then be the guy that makes the great decisions on offense.”

One recent motivation for Rodriguez has been a two-week visit from his mother, who made the trip from Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez it’s been comforting to have his mother in Manhattan.

“My dad passed away when I was 2, so she’s not just a mom,” he said. “She was a mom, a father, a friend. I can talk to her about anything — a best friend.”

Rodriguez’s mother goes back to Puerto Rico today, but he said he doesn’t think he will miss a step without her presence.

After poor performances against Iowa State last Saturday, K-State sophomore Thomas Gipson said he’d been spending time talking with Rodriguez about how both of them could right the ship on Wednesday against Texas.

That all seemed to work, too, as Gipson said he and Rodriguez worked together with a great flow against the Longhorns. Gipson led the Wildcats with a game-high 17 points.

“I talk to him everyday after practice about how we’re supposed to play and how I’ve been messing up and how last game we didn’t really do what we were supposed to do,” Gipson said. “We just put forth ourselves to make an effort this game and really play well.”

When Weber talked about Rodriguez before the season, he was still working on getting him to break his old high school habits.

Running through the motion offense, Rodriguez would often pass the ball and then wait for it to come back. Now, he’s moving within the offense, playing the quarterback role that the point guard needs to.

“I love that he made great decisions,” Weber said after the Texas game. “I thought in the second half, especially when they made the run, he made the right decisions. He’s very in control and letting things happen, and reading what the defense gives him.”

K-State assistant coach Chester Frazier said Rodriguez is making a lot of positive plays, he just needs to start making baskets to take the next step.

“I think he’s being smart with the ball,” Frazier said. “He’s not making as many risky passes, learning how to play in our offense, been a lot more selective in transition, and it helps when other guys are moving with the ball.

“Now, we’ve got to get his shot back going.”

Rodriguez said he’s learning to take advantage of what’s available to him on the floor. And he likes nothing better than getting the ball to his teammates for the big play.

“(I’m) just trying to stay under control and take what the defense gives me,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my teammates, they’re shooting the ball well and making plays. If I can make a play for them, then why not?”


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