Born: September 24, 1973
Town: Jersey City
Rodrick Rhodes was born September 24, 1973 in Jersey City. Rodrick was raised by his mother as a single parent. When he was 9, she suffered a stroke and passed away. Child-rearing thus fell to his older sister, Gail, and older brother, Reggie. Rodrick wore corrective shoes as a child, but was always very athletic, and in Jersey City, that meant you were a basketball player—because everyone knew that basketball was a ticket out.
Reggie woke Rodrick up before dawn many mornings to work on his game. He would blindfold his younger brother and make him dribble a basketball. Rodrick sprouted to over 6' as a young teen, and was already dunking and talking trash in the schoolyards before he enrolled at St. Anthony’s. There he came under the tutelage of Bob Hurley. Over the next four years, Rodrick would become Kobe Bryant before anyone had heard of Kobe Bryant—a 6'6" guard who could run the point, pick an opponent’s pocket, score from the perimeter and drive through the tall trees for rim-rattling dunks.
The Friars were state champs in Rodrick’s freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. Among his teammates were Hurley’s sons, Bobby and Danny. As a senior in 1991–92, Rodrick was named Mr. Basketball for New Jersey, the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state, and everybody’s All-American—in other words, a blue chip recruit by any measure.
One of the schools interested in Rodrick was Kentucky. Rick Pitino had recently signed on as coach and had spent a couple of years restoring the program’s tarnished reputation. Rodrick chose Kentucky over Seton Hall, and thus was Pitino’s first major recruit. He hoped the freshman would team up with Jamal Mashburn and create a little magic.
Often, Rodrick played like a force of nature. He scored 27 points on 10 of 14 shooting in just his second collegiate game. He made the All-SEC Freshman team. At other times, however, he seemed to shy away from contact and settle for poor shots. The Wildcats made it to the Final Four that season, but in their defeat at the hands of Michigan, Rodrick barely played. He improved his performance and saw more playing time as a sophomore, but that season ended badly again. This time he missed every shot he took against Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and Kentucky lost 75–63.
As a junior, Rodrick again had his good moments and bad. He tended to self-destruct when the Wildcats were playing on national television, or when he faced a high-profile opponent. He drove Pitino crazy, and was often at odds with the coach. Kentucky was bounced out of the 1995 NCAA Tournament by North Carolina in a game that was billed as a showdown between Rodrick and Jerry Stackhouse. Rodrick made 2 of 10 shots and the Wildcats lost. Fed up with Rodrick and having recruited Ron Mercer, Pitino asked him to red-shirt his senior year. The request had the desired effect—Rodrick left Kentucky and transferred to the University of Southern California.
Rodrick averaged 14 points a game for the Trojans in 1996–97. USC went 17–11 and earned an NCAA Tournament bid. The Trojans lost in the first round to Illinois. After the season, Rodrick entered the NBA Draft in 1997 at the age of 23. He was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 24th pick and saw action in 58 games, mostly as a backup to Mario Elie. The Rockets were loaded with aging stars—Hakeen Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Eddie Johnson, Kevin Willis—but were only a .500 club.
Houston traded Rodrick to the Vancouver Grizzlies during the 1998–99 season, and he was subsequently dealt to the Orlando Magic, but did not make the 1999–00 squad. Rodrick was an NBA ’tweener—not accurate enough to be a shooting guard, and not powerful enough to be a small forward. He tried to latch on with the 76ers, Mavericks and Trailblazers but played just one NBA game during the 1999–00 season.
Rodrick decided to take his game overseas, and had a productive career playing for teams in France, Greece and other countries. Rodrick was selected with the 24th pick in the first round of the 1997 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets. He was the only rookie to make the team’s veteran roster. He backed up Mario Elie at forward most of the season and averaged 5.8 points per game. His best game came in a win over the Raptors when he scored 12 points and had four steals and a blocked shot. Rodrick played two more seasons in the NBA, splitting that time between the Rockets, Vancouver Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks. He played ball in Europe, the Philippines and Puerto Rico starting in 2000.
After his playing career, Rodrick decided to get into coaching. He made various stops as a college assistant, including working for former Kentucky teammate Travis Ford at UMass. In 2011, at the suggestion of his brother Reggie, Rodrick switched his focus to the high school game and took a job at Cordia High in eastern Kentucky.