August 28, 2014

Rodriguez to make his point

Kevin McCarthy

5-foot-10 Sandor Rodriguez played varsity as a freshman last season at St. Francis High in Watsonville, the only underclassman on a team featuring eight seniors. The reason for his early elevation is because he's already a talented facilitator possessing uncanny court vision and instinct while displaying the ability to, in basketball parlance, do things that can't be coached.

photo of Sandor Rodriguez

West Valley Basketball Club (WVBC) founder and coach Bob Bramlett concurs. “To have his basketball acumen at that age is rare. Sandor has a true feel for the game. Start thinking Bob Cousy and Nate Archibald.” Rodriguez played for WVBC this spring and summer.

Yet he comes from a self-described soccer family. That was the sport of his father and one Rodriguez played until his freshman year. “At that point, I told my Dad ’I'm going to stick with basketball.’” The response he received: “Don't worry, I love basketball too.”

But this different athletic upbringing actually has worked in his favor.

“As a midfielder,” Rodriguez explained, “I had to keep my head up and know who is behind me and around me.”

His goals were playmaking and getting the ball to the strikers which sounds suspiciously familiar to the role of a point guard.

Asked what he considers his better skills, Rodriguez offered, “my vision—being able to react seeing where my teammates and the defenders are at.”

Then he added, “My IQ for the game and my handle—I've handled the ball well since I was a little kid.”

Conversely, it's shooting he is working on the most. “I want to be an elite shooter so I need to improve my consistency.”

For Rodriguez, his slide out of soccer and into hoops started when he began playing rec ball. “I was having more fun in basketball and then I got into AAU. I loved it. It was my new favorite sport.”

As for influences, Rodriguez cites many. “My parents, first off. They supported my decision to play basketball over soccer even though my Dad was my soccer coach. Now my Dad helps me in getting better for basketball.”

There were also various hoops mentors along the way. “My coaches in junior high, high school and AAU have all helped me with lessons in life and keeping my head straight.”

One other influence is “Mark Hinojosa. “He's a big role model and his passion for basketball makes me work harder.” Hinojosa, a First Team All League selection last season, is now a freshman at Monterey Peninsula College.

St. Francis bested Oakwood High 58-48 to open the playoffs last season but then fell 55-53 in overtime to Woodside Priory. It was after that matchup that Rodriguez experienced what he labeled as a learning moment.

“On the way back home, I was in the car with Mark [Hinojosa] and neither of us spoke. I was devastated [by the loss]. I had built a bond with the team. it was a great, memorable season and to lose was heartbreaking. The next day I was quiet. Then I realized it happened for a reason. There is always going to be an end to the season and now we can make it back.”

St. Francis is a school of just 250 students and resides in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League. Despite this relatively small enrollment vis-a-vis Aptos High's 1,400 and Soquel High's 1,300 respectively, the Sharks finished a solid 13-13 overall in 2013-14, 4-8 in conference, a record that included two and four point losses to eventual champion Santa Cruz High.