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Rodriguez turns attention to strength and conditioning

Marc Rodriguez (left) is all smiles while working with his charges. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Marc Rodriguez didn’t want to give up basketball.

But when it was over, he certainly made the best of it and started helping others.

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Rodriguez, the sharpshooting swingman and Father Judge High School basketball standout, was playing at East Stroudsburg University when he developed a pain in his back.

The pain grew worse and worse. He was forced to stop playing basketball. Just going to school was a challenge, he had to attend classes and lay on a yoga mat because sitting was too painful.

Eventually he had surgery to repair a damaged disc.

He returned to the team after the surgery, but he wasn’t the same player. In fact, still he’s only 85 percent healed.

That was the end of his basketball career, but just the start of his strength and conditioning coaching career.

Rodriguez graduated from the school, and thanks to the pandemic, he was given another year of eligibility. He just graduated with a master’s degree in Exercise Science and he’s jumping right into the world of training.

“It was an awesome experience, I got to work out with the men’s team, I helped out with baseball and I worked with the track and field team and the football team,” said Rodriguez, who was the first 1,000-point scorer in Father Judge history. “I played hurt my junior (eligibility) season, which was my first year of grad school. I wasn’t helping the team, so I got the surgery. I never got back to 100 percent while I was playing, but I was able to help in other ways.”

During the year, Rodriguez used everything he learned in the classroom to help transform his teammates into faster, stronger and better basketball players. But that didn’t end when the season was over.

After Rodriguez got his master’s, he hit up an old friend whom he played basketball with growing up and competed against in high school. It just so happens that Ryan grad Izaiah Brockington, who was signed to a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, was coming off ACL surgery and needed someone to help him get back into shape.

No hard feelings from those Catholic League wars between the Raiders and the Crusaders. Now these former competitors were working together to get the future NBA hopeful back on the court.

He’s on the road to recovery and is now preparing to play in the NBA Summer League, which gets started next month.

It’s like Northeast Philly’s version of Apollo Creed training Rocky Balboa.

“It came full circle for us, but we’ve always been friends since we played together as kids,” said Rodriguez, who also runs The Village Sports Performance where he trains athletes in the Northeast Philly area. “We played together when we were younger, then played against each other in high school. I would score points, but he always won. He ended my career.

“He’s my guy and we have a great relationship. I asked him if he trusted me enough to train with me and told him I had the degrees, but he didn’t care about that. He knew all the training we did as kids, and he worked so hard to get better.”

Now, he’s waiting to see what his friend does in the summer league.

“He did all this, he would have been fine either way, but I really loved working with him. He’s so built, strong quads, arms, everything. God has favorites! His future is bright, and I’m happy if I could help, but he did all the work.”

As an athlete, Rodriguez knows what it takes to be successful. And he’s happy to help anyone get better, stronger, faster or just happier. But he’s also quick to point out that the work is done by the athlete, he’s just there to help and make sure things are going well.

But Rodriguez might be the perfect guy for that role.

While he was one of the best players in the city when he was playing at Judge, few people talked about his ability to make a shot look easy from anywhere on the floor, or how no matter what the score was, he was giving it his all and keeping his teammates up. Rodriguez did all those things, but the first thing people talked about was his demeanor. He’s a great basketball player, but a better person, and that often overshadowed his skills on the court.

But now that well-earned reputation is serving him well, both with his side job and his internship, where he is working with the Drexel University basketball teams. He’s mostly working with the men’s team, but is happy to help where needed.

But it definitely helps that he was an athlete and he understands what it takes to play at a high level.

His private business is booming. Among his charges are Carroll grads Jesse McPherson, who is now playing in Portugal, and Justin Anderson who is playing in the NBA G League.

“My goal is to get a job working with either a college or a professional sports team, and work for them,” said Rodriguez, who lives in Rhawnhurst. “I love doing the private sector and I’ll always help people. I have a few kids from Ryan who come in, most everyone else is from outside the city. I have kids drive an hour twice a week to work out. They’re committed. They’re on the rise and I love working with them.”

Rodriguez realizes he’s still up and coming, but his post-basketball career really has gotten off to a great start. But instead of celebrating, Rodriguez is working hard. He’s also paying homage to those who helped him during his journey.

“When I was hurt and not playing, I know I was driving people crazy, especially (Judge grad and ESU assistant coach) Sean Hanna. I’m close with him, he’s like my big brother, I drove him crazy. The coaches had a conversation with me and helped me so much. And Coaches (Bill) Koch, (Michael) O’Connell. (Chris) Roantree, he’s the Judge coach now, he coached me when I was younger and he helped me so much and he’s doing great at Judge. And of course (Sean) Tait, he’s helped me so much. He’s always there for me.

“To do what they do in the weight room is awesome. The coaching staff at ESU, they helped my confidence. I’ve had a lot of help. And my mom, of course. Without her, I wouldn’t have had a place to lift during the pandemic, and she’s always helping me. My family helps me a lot, I’m really lucky. And I have the best girlfriend (Karlee Altland). I’m so busy and she’s so understanding. I’m very lucky to have her.”

Rodriguez has come so far in his new profession, but he’s not resting. He just wants to keep working and watching his guys and girls get better.

“My back feels good, I feel good and I’m getting better,” Rodriguez said. “I’m really busy, on my feet all day working with Drexel and at night, I have athletes I work with at night. I’m still trying to learn and help as much as possible. It’s hard being done with basketball, but this is definitely a great next chapter.”

Surrounded by family, Marc Rodriguez is honored during his senior season at East Stroudsburg. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
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