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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pro/con: Should Lute give Rodgers another chance?

    Arizonas Chris Rodgers tries to pull the ball away from Stanfords Matt Haryasz during the second half of Arizonas game against Stanford, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006 at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif. Arizona beat Stanford 76-72. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)
    Chris Coduto
    Arizona’s Chris Rodgers tries to pull the ball away from Stanford’s Matt Haryasz during the second half of Arizona’s game against Stanford, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006 at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif. Arizona beat Stanford 76-72. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

    You can call Chris Rodgers enigmatic, troubled, controversial and maybe even off his rocker. But you can’t say the senior guard didn’t help the Arizona’s men’s basketball team on the floor. Rodgers may not be William Wallace or Maximus, but his grit and determination, mostly on the defensive end, liken him to the basketball version of the underdog, say an Earl Boykins or a Brian Cardinal. No one on the current Wildcat team scraps like Rodgers, and no one can match his on-ball defense.

    Remember, this is an Arizona team that started the season in full-on, fast-paced, full-court pressure defense. This is a team that was forcing 22.3 turnovers per game in the 16 games Rodgers played.

    Like Arizona head coach Lute Olson said, sometimes stats tell the story. The stats do the talking for Rodgers in this situation.

    In the last six games, without Rodgers, the Wildcats are forcing only 15.5 turnovers per game, down almost seven from their previous average. That’s due largely in part to Rodgers, who was sometimes a one-man press, an enormous distraction for opposing teams.

    Rodgers averaged 2.5 steals per game, good for second in the Pacific 10 Conference at the time of his dismissal, but it was the deflections and the times he forced teams out of their offense that should be valued even more.

    As for the offensive side of the ball, Rodgers led the team in assist/turnover ratio his junior season. This season, in 173 more minutes, Rodgers committed five fewer turnovers than freshman point guard J.P. Prince (26-21) and was tied in assist/turnover ratio with junior point guard Mustafa Shakur at 1.48.

    If you want end results, the Wildcats were 10-6 with Rodgers but just 3-3 without him.

    It’s obvious Rodgers has been a tremendous asset to the ball club, so how do you deal with his personality? Olson has given him the opportunity, time and time again, to accept the team concept, and Rodgers has gone astray.

    But it is likely that because of Rodgers’ tough upbringing, Olson has a soft spot in his heart for his misunderstood antics. Let’s also not forget Olson pardoned another Oregon native named Salim Stoudamire a few times as well, so there is a history here.

    The fact of the matter is most of the guys on th e team would love to have him back, and the chemistry issue has been overblown to a degree.

    Sure, Rodgers is outspoken and would be better off with his mouth closed sometimes, but that’s not who he is, and that’s what makes him a beast guarding the ball.

    Along with his lightning-quick feet and ball-hawking hands, Rodgers’ tenacity is reminiscent of another troubled basketball player, Ron Artest. Like Artest, Rodgers’ me-against-the-world attitude gives him the extra bit of drive needed to be a great defensive player.

    Think about the great defensive stoppers of recent memory, in a number of sports; each has a bit of “”craziness”” to them. Ray Lewis, Dennis Rodman, Deion Sanders, Artest.

    That’s not a bad list of guys for comparison.

    With his hometown Oregon schools coming to Tucson and Arizona fighting for its NCAA tournament life, there is no better time to bring Rodgers back into the fold.

    What do you say, Lute?

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