Photo courtesy of Johnnie Photography.
By David Cordova
The Bronx is an urban area in the five boroughs in New York City that has a lot of good things pertaining to basketball. Those that come from that borough show a lot of toughness, due to being from the struggle. But many of them have gone on to greater heights, whether it be in college or in the pros.
One promising son of The Bronx is none other than Desi Rodriguez. The 6-foot-6 small forward out of Seton Hall University has a lot of athletic ability, which earned him the nickname, “Dunkin’ Desi,” which is due to his penchant for throwing down devastating slams at the rim.
Ask him what his motivation for the game of basketball is and the answer will be, “Just working on my craft, working on my game, keeping my confidence high and being able to make plays down the stretch for my team.”
When asked about being from The Bronx, Rodriguez replied, “It’s amazing. Just to know there’s hope there and just to make it out. That’s the most important thing, get my degree, trying to go pro, that’s what I want to do. That’d be big for the Bronx and my neighborhood.”
Rodriguez first started high school at Frederick Douglass Academy III in the Bronx, which is located not too far from his neighborhood of Washington Avenue. As a sophomore, he averaged 28 points and 17 rebounds per game for the Lions in the PSAL B division.
But then as he started gaining recognition around the city for his outstanding play, he made a power move by transferring to Abraham Lincoln High School in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. The Railsplitters are a powerhouse in New York City, and they have produced four NBA players, most notably, Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson, who is now in his ninth season with the Indiana Pacers.
In his time with Lincoln, Rodriguez teamed up with All-American Isaiah Whitehead, who is now in second season in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets. As a junior, they helped lead the Railsplitters to the city title in 2013. Then as a senior, Rodriguez averaged 18.3 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Railsplitters in the 2013-14 season.
When asked about his time at Lincoln, Rodriguez remembers it with fondness. “It was great. He [Whitehead] opened a lot of opportunities for me, we played together, we had a great duo, I was excited to play with him, even in college, so he’s a great player, so I know he’s doing well where he’s at now, and I wish him the best.”
Transferring to Lincoln benefited Rodriguez tremendously, due to the fact that he was receiving attention from colleges. But when all was said and done, he picked Seton Hall in the fall of 2013. At the time, he was a part of a recruiting class which included Whitehead, Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington, the latter two of whom are now also seniors at Seton Hall.
When asked what he liked about Seton Hall, he replied, “Just the atmosphere here, the coaching staff, the guys I came here with, it was easy to come here and build a bond and build a family with the team and the coaches.”
As a freshman, he averaged only 5.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. But then in his sophomore year, he made a lot of noise by averaging 12.4 points and five rebounds per game as he led the Pirates to the 2016 Big East championship and an appearance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
When asked about being a part of that team, Rodriguez replied, “It feels great. I’m trying to win another championship this year with the same guys. It’s going to be exciting. We look forward to leading with our senior class and that’s what we do.”
Last season, as a junior, he averaged 15.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and led Seton Hall to another first-round NCAA Tournament appearance. Now, as a senior, he is playing great, as he has doubled his average to 18.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and along with Carrington and Delgado, has reached the 1,000-point plateau. And also, the Pirates are now 14-2 and ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Against St. John’s on New Year’s Eve at the Prudential Center in Newark, he scored 23 points and added nine rebounds in a 75-70 win. When asked about how he felt about his senior year, he replied, “I’m excited going into the New Year with a big win like this. We just have to get some big wins on the road.”
On Saturday, on the road against Butler, he put up 19 points and five rebounds in a 90-87 win.
Now that Rodriguez is a senior, his goals are simple: lead the Pirates to another Big East title and an even further run in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, those goals seem like they are capable of being done.
When asked how he remembered when he graduates from Seton Hall, he replied, “Just leave a legacy here, I want people to come in and finish what we started, just winning. Making Seton Hall a winning program, that’s what it’s all about. The young guys that’s coming after us, they’ll know that Seton Hall is tough and gritty, so all we want to do is win.”
And after that? “Graduation,” says Rodriguez, “Try to win another championship and then graduation and then hopefully, after that, just try to make my dream come true with the pro life.”
Highlights of Desi Rodriguez:
Courtesy of NextUp Recruits.
Courtesy of BallislifeEast.
Courtesy of FOX Sports.
Courtesy of Big East Conference.
Courtesy of Frankie Vision.