Rodriguez leading No. 18 K-State into Big 12 race

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm •  Published: January 31, 2013
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — She stood in the back of the interview room, wearing a bright yellow coat over a purple Kansas State sweatshirt, unable to comprehend much of what her son was saying.

She couldn't help but smile anyway.

In the universal language of basketball, Jacqueline Tricoche still understood exactly what her son, Angel Rodriguez, had just done for the Wildcats. His 11 points and eight assists on Wednesday night in a blowout win over Texas had pushed them into a tie for second in the Big 12, and that's why the sophomore guard was fielding question after question under blazing spotlights.

When the news conference finally broke, and Tricoche slipped into a hallway deep within Bramlage Coliseum, she was asked how it felt watching her son play at Kansas State for the first time.

She paused for a minute, and then said quietly, "Muy bonita."

Very beautiful.

Rodriguez isn't the Wildcats' leading scorer, of course. That would be Rodney McGruder. He's not the leading rebounder, either. That would be Thomas Gipson.

But his game is beautiful nonetheless.

The barrel-shaped spark-plug is the team's best ball-handler, the key to making coach Bruce Weber's motion offense run. He may also be the team's best perimeter defender, the blood-and-guts glue guy for a program that keeps grinding out wins with a chip on its shoulder.

The Wildcats are off to a 16-4 start, their losses coming to top-ranked Michigan, second-ranked Kansas, and seventh-ranked Gonzaga, and on the road against another former Top 25 team, Iowa State.

All that success due in no small part to Rodriguez, who was recruited to Kansas State by former coach Frank Martin and then convinced to stay by Weber after an offseason coaching change.

"He's very under control, letting things happen, reading and taking what the defense gives him," said Weber, marveling at the fact that Rodriguez has 31 assists and just four turnovers in his last four games. "He's supposed to start our pressure on defense, and he can create havoc on guards, and be the guy who creates on offense. Now if we can get him to shoot the ball, he'd have it all together."

At that, Rodriguez slowly nods his head.

Yes, his shooting touch has abandoned him the past few weeks, but he's still averaging close to 10 point. More importantly, he's making everyone around him that much better.

"We've got a lot of trust in Angel," forward Omari Lawrence said. "He distributes in transition, puts pressure on the defense. He takes pride in stopping the other point guard. He's a leader."

That's one attribute he's had since he was a kid.

Rodriguez left Puerto Rico about five years ago to pursue basketball — and a better education — at Miami's Dr. Krop High School. His mother had to stay behind and care for Rodriguez's two younger brothers, Luis Rivera and Daniel Rivera, and never really had a chance to see him play.

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