Published: Aug 01, 2010 02:55 AM
Modified: Aug 01, 2010 08:55 PM
The third annual S.J.G. Greater NC Pro-AM Summer Basketball League is in full swing on N.C. Central's campus. By now you've heard or read about all the NBA, future NBA and top high school stars tearing up McLendon-McDougald gymnasium.
But the SUPER-star I'm anchoring to see -- one who can put John Wall, Kevin Durant, Raymond Felton and the rest to shame -- is Rodney Rogers.
In his prime, the Hillside High/Wake Forest/NBA star could wipe the floor with the lot of 'em. At Hillside, Rogers, known as "The Durham Bull," averaged 28.3 points and 12.3 rebounds his senior year. The 1990 N.C. Player of the Year was so good and Hillside was so dominant, the school gymnasium couldn't hold them.
"They played most of their home games on NCCU's campus," said T.C. Marshall, a former Hillside student, player and coach. "Everybody wanted to see Rodney. We had to turn people away."
As a Demon Deacon, he averaged 21.2 points and 7.4 rebounds in his collegiate career, and was named the 1990-91 rookie of the year and 1993 ACC player of the year. His No. 54 jersey was retired in '96.
And as a professional, he played 12 seasons with seven different NBA teams. His biggest accomplishment was being named the 2000 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Today, he is more endearing than ever as he fights for a life of normalcy after a tragic dirt bike accident almost two years ago.
Before the accident, Rogers, 38, was a supervisor for the city of Durham's public works department, a position he had been promoted to just six months prior. And no, he wasn't broke; he just wanted to be involved in the community he grew up in. Some employees didn't even know who they were working beside every day.
"I didn't even know he had lots of money," Rogers' supervisor, Michael Balzarano, told the News & Observer. "He is very friendly, very concerned, very conscientious. We chose him because of his ethics and his attitude. He was highly motivated."
Rogers grew up in McDougald-Terrace, a public housing project in Durham, but he never changed. Whether he made $10 or $1 million, he was still "The Durham Bull" of Hillside High.
In addition to work, he helped start a youth football team, was a volunteer coach of a girls' basketball team, and set up a computer lab at a local public-housing complex.
Now, he's a quadriplegic from a broken neck suffered when he flipped off his dirt bike onto his head. After months of rehab at the Shepherd's Clinic in Atlanta, he returned home last year with his fiancée, Faye Suggs.
A new addition to the summer league is the Rodney Rogers Foundation, headed up by vice president and best friend Darryl Harris. The RRF will raise money for the less fortunate and the disabled.
"He wants to give back, to show that life isn't over just because you're disabled," Harris said.
Rogers also plans to attend a couple of summer league games.
"He's ready to come out and do more, to let people see him," Harris continued.
That's what I'm waiting for. Wall, Durant, C.J. Leslie, you can have them all.
I'll save my accolades and standing ovations for the real star, no, SUPER-star, of the show - whenever he decides to appear.