Defensive Minded

Deanna Stevens

Freshman guard Rodriquez Sherman clamps down on the opposition

AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KENT STATER Freshman guard Rodriquez Sherman doesn’t score many points but makes up for it with his defense.

Credit: Adam Griffiths

There were four seconds left in freshman guard Rodriquez Sherman’s first Mid-American Conference home game. As one of Kent State’s top defenders, he was on the floor in a tie game against Ohio, guarding Sonny Troutman at the top of the key. Sherman swiped at the ball, and hesitated, suprised, it seemed, that he came away with a steal.

Sherman describes the defensive stop as his most memorable at Kent State, and it’s one example of why he’s earned the spot as the Flashes’ key defender on the perimeter. It has become his responsibility to guard each opponent’s best guard.

“I was happy to get the challenge,” Sherman said of his defensive assignment.

“Sometimes it can be intimidating when their best guard is like 6-foot-8,” the 6-2 Sherman said. “Other than that, I try to step up to the challenge. (I just) man up like coach says.”

Kent State coach Jim Christian said that Sherman’s role is a difficult one for a freshman to step into.

“It’s kind of throwing him into the fire a little bit, “Christian said. “He’s responded very well.”

Sherman added he wanted to perform well not only to prove himself, but to help his teammates.

“We play for each other because that’s all we got,” Sherman said.

Senior guard Armon Gates said Sherman’s ability to fit into the system so quickly is unique.

“He just wanted to win,” Gates said. “He doesn’t care about individual goals.

Everyone cares about individual goals, but he’ll put the team first.”

Sherman’s success in the role is even more impressive considering his lack of a defensive mindset at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.

“I really didn’t like defense (in high school),” Sherman said. “I’m starting to like it, I guess. You get a big kick out of stopping somebody. Maybe stealing the ball, or getting that stop that you really need.”

After Sherman’s steal against Ohio, Kent State went on to win, 67-65, in overtime. Sherman had six points, four assists and two steals. On the season he is averaging almost 19 minutes per game, along with five points and two rebounds.

Christian said those numbers don’t show Sherman’s true value.

“Sometimes, a guy like him, he’s playing really well, but it isn’t reflecting on the stat sheet,” Christian said. “He’s not a guy scoring a ton of points, but he’s doing all the things to help you win.”

Sherman, who is shooting nearly 46 percent from the field, added that the offensive side of his game is something he wanted to improve on, and he is taking notes from Gates, his teammate and friend.

“As a shooter, he just needs to be more confident,” Gates said. “Every time he shoots it, he needs to believe it’s going in, with no hesitation”

Sherman said he and Gates have become so close because of the similarities they share not only physically, Gates is an inch shorter and both weigh 185 pounds, but mentally as well.

“I always call him my little protege,” Gates said. “I say that all the time, (when I’m) joking with the team and stuff like that.

“He’s smart. He has the heart of a warrior,” Gates added. “He’s strong mentally. He doesn’t let anything put him down. If someone tries to tell him something, he just listens and takes it all in and tries to do things better.”

Christian added that Gates isn’t the only team member to notice Sherman’s work ethic.

“He comes to play every single day, and because of it he’s earned the respect of everybody in the program,” Christian said. “Players, coaches, everybody around this program respects the quality of person he is.”

He started playing basketball during elementary school but didn’t begin playing for a team until the sixth grade. Like most young boys at the time, Sherman idolized Michael Jordan.

“Growing up, I was like, ‘I want to be just like him’,” Sherman said. “I’m not saying I am Michael, but everybody strives in their own way.”

Sherman not only admired the basketball great, he developed a trait that Jordan was famous for, extreme competitiveness.

“(I came here) because Kent State wins,” Sherman said bluntly. “I heard Kent State wins a lot of games, and I’m trying to win a lot of games.”

But he said he not only wants to win games, he wants to win a championship, which is something that has eluded him his entire athletic career.

“They won the MAC championship last year, and with them telling me all (about) that, you want to feel that too,” Sherman said. “They said how lovely it felt, so I want to feel that.”

Christian said Sherman’s hard work and willingness to do what’s best for the team make him a perfect fit for the Flashes.

“He’s a disciplined kid. He really wants, so much, to be successful,” Christian said. “He doesn’t worry about himself. For what we want in a player, he’s the mold.”

Contact men’s basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].