Curtis Kitchen has followed the Big 12, Kansas State and national college basketball beat including K-State's run to the NCAA Tournament Elite 8 in 2010. You can currently follow his work at his blog: KitchenKC.com In the past, he also covered the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting KC) for Major League Soccer's mlsnet.com site as well as the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals for the other sports station in town. His freelance portfolio ranges media outlets and publications, including gopowercat.com (part of the Rivals network), collegehoopsnet.com and the Miami Herald.
Curtis Kitchen: Give Angel Rodriguez Some Time
by Curtis Kitchen,posted Feb 17 2012 2:07PM
Lately, there has been much discussion surrounding Kansas State freshman Angel Rodriguez - his play, specifically. Some people want him to play more. Some want him to play less. Some want to point at his game against Kansas earlier this week - an unfortunate performance on a national stage - as a sign that he simply can not and will not ever cut it on that level.
Breathe, people. Breathe.
It would be one thing if Rodriguez was defiant or not open to criticism - either from his coaches or himself. But, that isn't the case. Days after the Kansas game, Rodriguez gave a stoutly blunt self-evaluation of his most recent game - in which he was 0-of-8 FG, 0-of-4 from 3-point range and committed seven turnovers in 27 minutes.
"That game was the worst game of my life, and I do not mean my college career but my whole, entire life," Rodriguez said. "It was tough to deal with that. Mentally, I got into the film room and watched it over and over, just so I will not make the same mistakes again.
"To be honest, when I think about the KU game, all I think about is negative stuff and trying to make it into a positive. I did not get any positive things out of that game, so I am just trying to take all the negatives and turn them into positives for the next couple games we have left."
What I take from that is Rodriguez is a fighter. He's not afraid to stare back at something awful where some coaches and players are. He saw what he did. He hopes to learn from it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, it's encouraging.
Part of Rodriguez's problem right now is that he can see and read the floor. He knows where a cut exists. He knows how a defender is going to react in the open floor. He is the one guard on the K-State team who isn't afraid to show a little chutzpuh and go for the lob.
Those things are a problem because the kid sees them, but he isn't quite good enough, yet, to be able to pull them off. The cutter moves to the basket, but the pass is a half-tic slow. The defender makes the wrong move and draws to Rodriguez on his drive, but he tries to shoot the ball instead of using a wrap-around pass to his wide-open post under the basket. The lob was there, but his teammate didn't make eye contact quick enough.
Have those types of plays cost KSU during games, and cost them games overall? Yes, that's absolutely fair to say. But, that's the peril that comes with using a true freshman point who isn't Derrick Rose.
However, all of those things I mentioned are correctable. The important part is that Rodriguez sees them, and he possesses the right type of personality to deal and to learn.
"He is a tough little kid. Angel is not going away," head coach Frank Martin said. "Like all freshmen, he has had some moments where he has had some mental lapses, has gotten frustrated and has not handled things, but that is between him and I.
"But, there is no quit in him; that is who he is. He did not come out here to quit after a bad day or a bad game. He is going to keep fighting."
Overall, the increased scrutiny on Rodriguez and other pieces has come, in my opinion, because fans have some angst at how K-State's season has gone, and they need an outlet. That's not to say they want to make Rodriguez a scapegoat. But, I have a feeling that if the Wildcats were even four games better than they are currently, which would put them at 21-4, a lot of attention currently aimed at a freshman point guard would instead be turned to bracket projections and an outside run at a Big 12 title.
Instead, the 'Cats are hanging on to mediocre NCAA tourney hopes, with fans ready to label the season somewhat of a disappointment; of which, of course, Rodriguez is a part.
Either way, moving forward, I expect two things. 1) I expect Rodriguez will continue to develop and mature. 2) Though it doesn't fit current roster/scholarship ratios, I expect a move or two will be made to free up space and allow the staff to bring in another true point guard. As of now, unless you count Martavious Irving, K-State has Angel, and Angel alone, in terms of a true playmaking threat from the top. That's a roster flaw I don't see continuing.