Rodriguez jumper is back on target

Marc Rodriguez averaged 10 points per game last year at East Stroudsburg. PHOTO: Bob Shank/ESU Athletics

It was in an empty gym, but it happened.

Marc Rodriguez shot an airball.

If you watched him play during his days at Father Judge High School or more recently at East Stroudsburg University, you might not believe it. Every time the sharpshooting guard jacks up a shot, no matter where it’s at on the court, you expect it to go in.

It’s why he is the all-time leading scorer at Judge and why he is continuing that success in college. But a year ago, he wasn’t tickling cotton with most of his shots. In fact, some were way off.

“It was super frustrating,” said Rodriguez, who lives in Rhawnhurst. “I was probably saying a lot of things I shouldn’t have been saying. I wasn’t used to missing by that much. It was hard. I never knew how hard it was to not make shots like that. I was getting mad. But I kept shooting.”

Rodriguez has an excuse for bricking those jumpers. He had to learn how to shoot again after suffering a torn labrum and having surgery on it. It sent him to the sidelines for a while and spoiled his sophomore season, which caused him to redshirt. He returned last year as a redshirt sophomore, and the shot was back. But it definitely took a lot of time to perfect that sweet stroke he’s become known for.

“It happened in the very beginning of my sophomore year, I went to block the ball and I got hit and it popped out of the socket, luckily it was clean,” Rodriguez said. “It hurt, I knew it was bad. I had the same thing happen to my other arm before and I had surgery. I got better, but I knew it was going to be hard to come back.

“The worst part was waiting for it to get better, but I was able to stay around and work hard to get better. It got better, and I was cleared in August. It was a lot harder to come back. I had to do a lot of work to get back, and I really wasn’t right until a few games into the season. I got better the more I played, though.”

Once he got back, it was back to normal.

Rodriguez worked his way back into the lineup and averaged a team-high 10 points per game last year for the Warriors, who finished 20-9. He was fourth in assists and second in steals, helping the Warriors reach the semifinals of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament.

It was the second year of actually playing for the Warriors, but his third year of being in the school. The injury gives Rodriguez a chance to have two more seasons at East Stroudsburg, and while the injury wasn’t ideal, it did set up a great situation for Rodriguez.

“It’s a blessing in disguise because now I have two more years to play basketball, and it will give me a chance to go to grad school, so it’s going to work out for me,” said Rodriguez, who is majoring in exercise science, and is focusing on strength and conditioning. “Now I’m going to get to play for two more years and that will help me a lot. It will help me get better and it will let me keep learning. So I didn’t plan on it, but it’s going to work out for me.”

Rodriguez is learning a lot in the classroom.

He’s also learning a lot on the floor.

Always a heady player, Rodriguez credits the coaching staff at East Stroudsburg with helping him continue to hone his craft, and he believes everything he is learning in college is going to help him with his future.

“I’m lucky that I’ve always had great coaches who help me, and the coaches (at East Stroudsburg) are really pushing me,” Rodriguez said. “They always want me to go harder and work. They’ve pushed me further than I thought I could go a few times, but when it was over, I was happy I was able to do it.”

That’s something Rodriguez wants to do once he’s finished playing. It might be in two years, it might be further down the line.

“I really want to see if there’s a way I can play either overseas or somehow over here,” Rodriguez said. “I know it’s very hard and I’ll have to work my way into whatever I get, and I’ll do that if that’s what it takes. But whenever I’m done playing, I know I want to be a coach and that’s why it’s good for my major.

“I’ve been lucky to have great coaches and I know I can help people through basketball. What you teach people in basketball is a lot more than just what you do in the game. I’ve learned so much through basketball and things that I don’t use while playing, but lessons. Basketball is a great way to teach people about life. I would love to help people through the game.”

That’s been Rodriguez’s attitude since he first stepped on the court at Father Judge.

He became a key player when he was a freshman and almost immediately he was a leader. He’s been that way ever since.

“There were days when my friends would be, like, ‘Marc, chill with the pep talks,’ and I would, but that’s just how I am,” Rodriguez said. “I think I get it from my mom. That’s how she was. She raised me, she’s been there the entire time. She’s always clawing to get by, and she taught me to do the same. I’m proud to take after her.”

It’s a good attitude to have. After all, it worked with his shot last summer.

“I’m glad it’s back because it was so hard missing like that,” Rodriguez said. “It’s back, though. It feels good again.”