Sadiel Rojas raised some eyebrows at the 2012 NBA D-League Showcase when he filled in for an injured Ron Howard during the Fort Wayne Mad Ants game against the Bakersfield Jam. Rojas took advantage of his playing opportunity by clocking 40 quality minutes with 16 points and 8 rebounds. His energetic play and a key 3-point shot late in the game helped the Mad Ants secure their first win in a showcase game.
Rojas, a 6-4, 190-pound guard from Oklahoma Wesleyan and 2011 NAIA Player of the Year – averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds per game - was a fourth round selection in the 2011 NBA D-League draft by the Maine Red Claws. He was traded on draft-day to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and is the first player from Oklahoma Wesleyan to play in the NBA D-League.
Averaging 15 minutes per game, Rojas is putting up 5 points and 3 rebounds per game. He is dangerous in transition due to his speed and athleticism, and has a knack for scrapping for rebounds against much taller and stronger opponents. Usually getting at least one steal per game, Rojas torments guards on defense as well.
From a fan perspective, Rojas plays hard every time he is on the floor and his explosive play is exciting to watch. He’s quickly becoming a fan favorite due to his work ethic and maximum effort on every play.
I was able to get a few minutes with Sadiel to ask him about his goals in the D-League and about his overall game.
Whether starting or coming off the bench, you are putting in some quality minutes. What are your goals when you step on to the floor?
"Right now my goals are to get in the game, make defensive stops, make defensive plays and to score off-the-ball. I’m not looking to score with the ball; I’m looking to score off the ball with back-cuts, cutting through the lane and fast breaks."
Watching you play, it looks like you are building your game around 2nd chance shots, solid defense, and transition scoring. Is this the kind of game you are looking to play?
"On defense, I’m aiming to help our big man and cut off the backdoor plays. On offense, I’m looking for offensive rebounds and second chance points. When I do shoot, I’m putting up a high shooting percentage because my points come from layups, dunks, offensive rebounds and open looks in transition. I look for ways to help the team and not just opportunities to score."
At 6-4, your vertical jump is amazing. What’s your secret? Do you have springs in your knees or rockets in your shoes?
"My freshman year in college I tried to dunk and the first time I couldn’t really dunk that good. I got hurt trying to dunk one time -- hurt my hip and I came back after four weeks of rest and then I could jump. I dunked well over 100 times in college."
We are all getting to know Sadiel Rojas the basketball player, but what’s something that we might not know about you?
"I give God the glory for every game and every rebound. I take none of the credit. It’s a hard road to get here and a hard road to stay here and I’m grateful."
Sadiel Rojas finishing a dunk against the Bakersfield Jam at the D-League Showcase
There’s a lot of intelligence behind the game that Rojas is crafting. NBA teams draft scorers straight from college and look to the D-League to fill specific roles and needs. Focusing on defense, rebounds, and transition play could give Rojas an advantage against other guards in the D-League as his game grows and matures.
When you add up Sadiel’s obvious athletic talent, excellent attitude, high energy, and humble personality you get a young man with a definite RIDICULOUS UPSIDE.