Behind the ball: Marc Rodgers

Courtesy of Marc Rodgers

Courtesy of Marc Rodgers

Natalie Hyland, Senior Sports Reporter

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While many students—specifically athletes—are excited and ready to return to action as their season gets underway, junior point guard Marc Rodgers considered not coming back to CWU in the months before the 2016-17 season.

“I had to sit down with [my family] and ask what they thought was best,” Rodgers says.

Rodgers’ grandmother, Darlene, had just passed and a few months prior to that, Rodgers’ childhood friend Sydney ‘Syd’ Dorsey lost his life in a car wreck. All the while Rodgers was recovering from an injury that benched him during his junior year at CWU and that had him wondering if he’d ever be the same.

His first love

During his childhood, Rodgers played other sports. Before high school he played baseball. He also tried football, but basketball had always been his favorite sport. Rodgers remembers playing basketball in first and second grade, but can’t be sure he wasn’t already dedicated to the sport before then.

“It’s always been my dream to play at the highest level,” Rodgers says.

During his high school career, Rodgers found himself recruited by some of the bigger schools in California such as Cal State Fullerton, California Polytechnic, San Diego State and Long Beach State, but he also found himself on the watch lists of schools such as the University of Miami.

Unfortunately for Rodgers, the latter part of his high school career was also plagued by injury, including tearing the PCL in his knee his junior year.

After the injury, the schools recruiting Rodgers wished him well and a speedy recovery, but as he got healthy only a few continued to express interest. Many had already passed him by for players who weren’t recovering from serious injuries, but an interesting situation would soon present itself.

The long haul

When it came time to pick a school, Rodgers had an important choice to make: stay another year at his prep school and risk another injury, or accept an offer from a smaller school while he was healthy.

Like any big decision in Rodgers’ life, he turned to his support system, his family.

Rodgers grew up closely with his parents, little sister, grandparents, aunts and cousins, with whom he shared more with than most.

“My mom is a twin and her sister has two daughters. We all grew up in the same house,” Rodgers says. “By science… we share 25 percent [of our DNA], so we’re technically brother and sisters in a way.”

Rodgers’ family knew all about his dream and gave their input the best they could, but they ultimately left the decision up to him. Shortly after, Rodgers boarded a plane to start his new life at CWU.

“I think the scariest part was moving so far away from home,” Rodgers says. “I had never been to Ellensburg before.”

Like any young adult leaving home for the first time, Rodgers began to question his decision, and he started wondering what would have happened if he had stayed in Los Angeles. Rodgers says he probably would have transferred—or at least looked at his options—had it not been for a holiday he spent with former teammate Julian Vaughn’s family.  

“It played a big part in me staying here,” Rodgers says. “I felt like I finally had someone I could relate to and that I was close to.”

During Thanksgiving break in 2013, Rodgers found himself unable to be with his family due to a busy practice schedule and not enough time to fly home. He would have been the only one to stay on campus had it not been for Vaughn. The junior guard brought Rodgers home to Tacoma to celebrate with his family. What may only have been a kind gesture to Vaughn, was something much more to Rodgers.

“It probably didn’t seem like a big deal to him, but it was to me,” Rodgers says.  

I think the scariest part was moving so far away from home. I had never been to Ellensburg before.”

— Marc Rodgers

Branching out

Sitting outside Nicholson Pavilion Gymnasium on a staircase, Rodgers says hello to everyone who walks by. He calls them all by name, including Sammy Henderson, director of athletics communications and somewhat of a personal mentor to Rodgers.

Henderson has “brought me in on the days when he can tell that I’m not having a good day,” Rodgers says. “Most people in the athletic program knows what’s going on … with me.”

Every so often Rodgers glances back to his teammates scrimmaging during an open gym. Any person can see that he’d rather be playing than sitting, but still he’s polite and focused on the task at hand.

“I’m close with everyone, these guys are my brothers,” Rodgers says. “I’m kind of like the mediator to everyone, but it doesn’t go past basketball.”

In his first season with the Wildcats, Rodgers admits he didn’t socialize much outside of being with the team, because of his focus on basketball. But Vaughn and other teammates opened him up to moving outside of his comfort zone.

By the time Vaughn graduated in 2015, the team dynamic was much different. The Wildcats’ roster now boasted six players from out of state, including Rodgers’ high school teammate Jerome Bryant, who joined the team the year after Rodgers.

Bryant and Rodgers played together during Rodgers’ senior year at Cathedral Prep School in LA. During that time, they formed a bond that would eventually bring Bryant to CWU.

“It was kind of nice to have someone from the same place,” Bryant says. “We went through the same things as freshmen.”

Bryant recalls how CWU offered Rodgers a spot after a tournament he attended in Seattle and Rodgers telling the CWU coaches they would find a good player in Bryant.

Unexpected setbacks  

With only a few days until the 2015-16 season came underway, Rodgers collapsed in pain during a scrimmage with an injury that would find him benched for the entirety of the season. The official diagnosis: a torn meniscus, sprained MCL and patellar tendon and a fractured tibia.

Over the next eight to nine months Rodgers would undergo two procedures: one to correct the tear, and a second to break up the scar tissue that had formed. All the while, Rodgers worried if he’d ever be the same again or, worse, lose his place on the team.

“It seems like not a big deal to some people,” Rodgers says. “When you get hurt, you worry that coaches will forget about you … and maybe they’ll recruit over you.”

In tough times, Rodgers would turn to basketball as a way to relieve stress and take his mind off things, but with his injuries, he had no escape from the string of tragedies that struck next.

During his rehab process, Rodgers received word that his childhood friend, Sydney Dorsey, had been killed in a car accident in LA. Instead of letting the sadness overwhelm him, Rodgers decided to look at the positive side of things.

“I still have my knee. I have other friends,” Rodgers says. “If my friend was still around, he would want me [to do] well.”

Rodgers kept those thoughts in mind throughout the rest of his recovery process and into his second junior year. While he was considered a senior by the university, Rodgers still had two more years of athletics eligibility because his injury had taken him out of commission before the season began.

Just before Rodgers was set to return to Ellensburg, his maternal grandmother, Darlene passed away. Given the close-knit bond shared by Rodgers and his family, it was like a blow to the stomach for Rodgers especially and he began to consider not returning to CWU.

When these thoughts began to creep in again, Rodgers turned to his family and teammate Desmond Ross for advice.

“He seemed pretty sincere when he was thinking about it,” Ross says. “We talked about it and he’s still here.”

Ross and Rodgers have known each other since they played tournament basketball on club teams as kids. Ross also credits Rodgers for having a large part in his coming to play for CWU.

“I’ve been to two other schools before” CWU, Ross says. “He told me about the system and the team feel. The city is very supportive of the basketball program.”

Ross says he remembers playing against Rodgers as a kid and even then, he had a personality that was hard to forget.

“You can’t pick a favorite memory with Marc—he’s a character,” Ross says. “He’s always got a big smile and a big heart. He’s just a joy to be around and play with… and against”

Rodgers returned to Ellensburg for the 2016-17 season. He was still unsure of what the season would hold, but now he had something to look forward to. The team was set to play two games in Seaside, California, against Cal State San Bernardino (CSSB) and Cal State Monterey Bay (CSMB) in mid-November.

Rodgers’ family made the drive to watch him play, including his paternal grandmother, Bobbie, who would pass soon after. Rodgers recalls crying multiple times before, during and after the CSSB game, knowing it would be one of the last his grandma would see him play in.

“It was stomach wrenching,” Rodgers says. “She’d lost a lot of weight and I could tell she was kind of sick.”

Rodgers recalls his grandmother was too sick to attend the CSMB game the next day, but instead watched the game online from the hotel room.

“I knew she was watching,” Rodgers says. “I wanted to make sure that if that was the last game she watched, she saw the best in me.”

The game was one of Rodgers’ best of the season; he scored 12 points in the 93-87 win.

Not long after the Wildcats ended their season, Rodgers received a call from his father saying it was time for him to fly home to say his goodbyes.

“I’m usually never home, I’m always in Washington,” Rodgers says. My grandmas “could have passed way before then. They could of have passed when I was in a game, in practice during the season.”

Rodgers doesn’t like to think his grandmas exactly waited for him, but he is grateful he got to say his goodbyes before they passed.

“They were both there with me when I took my first breath, and I was there with them as they took their last ones,” Rodgers says. “I came in with them and they went out with me.”

I knew she was watching. I wanted to make sure that if that was the last game she watched, she saw the best in me.”

— Marc Rodgers

Recharging and remembering

In memory of his grandmother Bobbie, Rodgers got a tattoo of a roaring lion on his right bicep. He also has four roses representing each one of his grandparents.

“The lion kind of represents everything I stand for … a lion doesn’t wait on anything,” Rodgers says. “My grandmother was a very active person as far as taking control of things, she didn’t believe in waiting on anything.”

Rodgers also credits her as being a large part of his decision to come to CWU.

“My grandmother was one of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” Rodgers says. “If it wasn’t for her I’d probably be in a worse place than I am right now.”

Rodgers also has multiple voicemails saved from his grandmother yelling at him for missing free-throws or having good games, or sharing his nervousness before games.

“I think it was the game against Western Washington my sophomore year and we won at the buzzer,” Rodgers says. “My sister says my grandma shut down the whole street. She was yelling out the window she was so happy.”

They were both there with me when I took my first breath, and I was there with them as they took their last ones. I came in with them and they went out with me.”

— Marc Rodgers

There is also a recent new addition to the Rodgers’ family. Rodgers’ cousin Devin gave birth to a baby boy named Jaxon about a year ago.

Jaxon “has been the best thing that happened to my family [right now],” Rodgers says. “He’s been my best friend since the day he [was born]. I talk to him like we’ve known each other for 20 years.”

 

Rodgers credits all of his family, especially his parents, for where he is today.

“They really have been there for everything for me,” Rodgers says.

During the offseason, Rodgers says he is focusing on getting back to himself and continuing to heal.

“I’m trying to bounce back,” Rodgers says. “There’s days where I wake up and I feel like everything is just taken [from me].”

Though there is still another season in front of him, Rodgers is now turning his attention to what happens after the final buzzer.

“I really want to do coaching,” Rodgers says. “If I can play overseas I probably will.”

Rodgers has already been with the team for four years and has plenty of time to reflect, but he says now is his time to get his mind right and look at the bright side.

“If there’s anything I can walk away with from my time here at [CWU], it’s that it’s made me a stronger person,” Rodgers says. “It’s prepared me for a lot more than basketball.”

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Behind the ball: Marc Rodgers”

  1. Neeley gray Mosley on May 18th, 2017 3:28 am

    I have been in Marc family for about 6 years , he really a wonderful person,his family is great, love his personality. He is so far away, hardly gets to see him , he loves basketball , Marc follow your dreams, don’t give up on anything you want to do, you have a great support system, wonderful mother and father, that will be there for you , and Mama Neeley loves you more than ever.

    [Reply]

  2. Grady Dodson on May 19th, 2017 10:42 am

    Being Marcs AAU coach his last summer of high school was a pleasure. teams superstar picked up a very smart basketball I Q PG in Marc. Coming off an njuring his junior year and he was a man or young man on a mission in by the end of our summer season had a lot of interest from a lot of school however most of those Division I interest did not have a Division I or at least an offer with a realistic approach see him play Best choice in choosing Central Washington University

    They wanted him to come in and impact the team and help with games to win games

    To see him graduate and aspire to be a college coach is awesome

    [Reply]

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Behind the ball: Marc Rodgers