Now that the college basketball season has come to an end, many of the top players from around the country are shifting their focus to June’s NBA draft.
Players with dreams of playing in the NBA are now preparing for the next two-plus months of workouts. As the draft gets closer, players will work out for as many teams as they need to in order to boost their draft stock.
Some players see the pre-draft process as a great opportunity to climb up teams’ draft boards. Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton began the pre-draft process projected to be an early second-round pick, but the point guard dominated workouts and often embarrassed other prospects with terrific plays. He would eventually be drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 10th pick in the 2014 draft (and was immediately traded to the Magic).
College prospects have taken notice and many understand that it doesn’t matter if they played at a powerhouse school. They know that having great workouts can be all that’s needed in order to be drafted. Former University of Miami point guard Angel Rodriguez is planning on taking full advantage of his upcoming workouts and is utilizing every opportunity to showcase his game.
That first opportunity comes this week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia.
“It’s very important [to stay in the moment] because you don’t want to overlook any opportunity that’s given right now,” Rodriguez told Basketball Insiders (watch the full video, with workout clips, above). “The closest thing right now besides workouts is Portsmouth. I got to make sure I do a good job. I got to be consistent because everything matters at this point. There is no tomorrow. This is not college basketball anymore. We’re all trying to become professionals and everything matters.”
The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament brings in 64 of the top seniors in the country. The prospects participate in 12 games designed to show off their skills in front of representatives from every NBA team.
In past years, players like Jimmy Butler, Jeremy Lin, Tim Frazier and Henry Sims (among others) have participated in the tournament.
For a player like Rodriguez, the tournament is a great chance to make a first impression on scouts during this process. He is coming off of his best season as a collegiate player with Miami. He averaged 12.6 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game in 35 games last season. He hit several big shots during his time at Miami, including a game-winning three-pointer against No. 8 Florida in 2014 and a tip-in with 1.4 seconds left against Pittsburgh last season.
Rodriguez played his best basketball of the season when the spotlight was at its brightest. He turned heads during the NCAA Tournament, leading Miami to an appearance in the Sweet 16 by averaging 21.7 points, 5.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and three steals in three tournament games. He shot 54 percent from the field and an excellent 60 percent from three-point range.
His best game of the season was against Wichita State in the second round; he recorded a season-high 28 points as well as five assists, four steals and two rebounds.
For many prospects, keeping things in perspective is a big key during this process. Rodriguez is currently not listed within the top 100 prospects on DraftExpress’ rankings, but Rodriguez believes he can help a team at the next level and is realistic about how he’ll be used.
“I know I’m not going to come in and be an All-Star,” Rodriguez said. “I know I’m not going to come in and plays are going to be ran for me. As long as I know my role, I’ll stick to it and I’ll do a very good job. [What I want] to bring for sure is defense and energy. That’s something you can’t teach. That’s something that not everybody loves – not just in games, but in practice.
“It’s something I know coaches look forward to and something that coaches appreciate. It’s something that, as a team, everybody is going to like because I’m going to help guys get better. I’m not going to let guys have a free lunch. They might score, but they’re going to have to work on it.”
Rodriguez is hoping to follow a similar career path as Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea. Both players are similar in size as Barea is listed at 6’0 and 185 pounds while Rodriguez was listed last season at 5’11 and 180 pounds. Barea began his professional career in Puerto Rico before catching on with the Mavericks in 2006.
Barea played some of his best basketball with the Mavericks in the 2011 playoffs, when he became a key role player during the team’s run to the championship. He has made a career of being a floor general and doing the dirty work during games. Rodriguez mirrored that style of play during his four years in college between his time at Kansas State and Miami.
“I’m a person that’s very confident in myself,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve played against great players in college and guys that are at the pro level right now. I know the capability is there, but the size is always going to be a question. At the end of the day, I just got to be the best that I can be.
“A guy that I look up to is J.J. Barea. I want to be more like a [Patrick] Beverley on the defensive side. I think Barea is a great offensive player, but something I truly take pride on is defense and Pat Beverley is somebody I look up to in that way.”
Following his senior year at Miami, Rodriguez has been working out with several other NBA prospects. In Basketball Insiders’ exclusive look at the workouts with Elite Skills Training in Miami (seen in the video above), Rodriguez was a standout among six other Division I prospects.
He flashed a strong handle, a good shot from three-point range and was a pest on defense in three-on-three drills. He was very vocal during scrimmages, a much needed quality for a point guard in the NBA. His shooting is among the things that he wants to improve the most.
“Obviously, everybody has to get adjusted to the three-point line,” Rodriguez said. “That’s one thing everybody is working at. For myself, I’m trying to become a much better mid-range guy. I want to be a very energetic guy – a guy that comes in and dogs the ball. A guy that comes in and changes the game on defense.”
As Rodriguez continues his preparation ahead of the draft, he hired Pedro Power of YouFirst Sports as his agent. While it remains to be seen if Rodriguez will be drafted, many players have proven that draft position doesn’t matter. They have shown that having strong outings in the Summer League can sometimes be the key to being on a team’s radar – and then it’s all about opportunity and finding the right fit.
Playing a season or two in the D-League or overseas has also become a more common route to the NBA. Sometimes, being an undrafted rookie can be a blessing in disguise since players are able to pick the best situation available to maximize their playing time and opportunities.
Rodriguez leaves for Portsmouth tomorrow in what will be one of the biggest showcases of his playing career with so many professional scouts in attendance. Don’t be surprised if his draft stock rises after leaving Portsmouth.
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