Elvin Rodriguez: A Washington Heights Native’s Basketball Odyssey Leads Him To Denver

Photo courtesy of the University of Denver Athletics Department.

By David Cordova

There are many reasons why people play the game of basketball. Three major reasons are: to stay out of trouble, to gain an athletic scholarship & to one day, hopefully, make it to the pros so they can get their families out of the ghetto.

Two out of three definitely applies to Elvin Rodriguez, as he has accomplished the first two options, while the third is something he definitely plans to make come true.

“In the game of basketball, what motivates me is my great-grandfather passing away, my little brother who was just recently born, my family in general. Like, they keep me motivated, they keep me going. Living in poverty, there’s a bunch of things that motivate me. Every day I just keep going, and keep fighting through it.” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez shoots a jumper from the corner as a junior at Greens Farms Academy in Connecticut. (Photo courtesy of Elvin Rodriguez)

Rodriguez has played the sport since he was five years old, which is the reason for the nickname, “E-5.” He then added, “Even though I’ve been an underrated guard for the majority of my life, I’ve kept it going.”

The 6-foot-1 guard from the Washington Heights section of Manhattan is a player with a lot of athleticism, and also a player that can score the ball, as well. He has a lot of speed and a 43-inch vertical leap, which he is not afraid to use when going to the rim.

One of his weaknesses that he feels is his lack of a consistent jumper. “Being that I’ve already done my first year in college and gotten better with the footwork and stuff like that, so, those are things that I’m going to continue to build on,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez also comes from an area where the basketball culture is definitely thriving. “The [basketball] culture out here is unreal. We have Dyckman Park, we have UBA. You know, Dyckman is pretty much, the Mecca of Basketball, that’s where you pretty much want to play.”

Rodriguez has a post-game interview with famed emcee David “Cha-Ching” Teele last summer at the Dyckman Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Dyckman Basketball Tournament)

He first started out his high school days at Park East High School, which is located in East Harlem, and then transferred to Greens Farms Academy in Westport, Connecticut, where he averaged 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game as a junior for the Dragons. He then finished out his basketball odyssey at Forest Trail Academy in Kernersville, North Carolina for his senior year.

In what has become the norm, players from New York City, choose to go out of town for educational and athletic purposes, trying to further their chances at getting a Division I scholarship. The prep school life is a prelude to the college life, as kids of high school age are living away from home in search of a common goal.

When asked if the prep school experience helped him, Rodriguez added, “The prep school experience was unreal. I had availability to the gym whenever I wanted, you know, I would wake up at 5 AM, get some shots up, go to class, and then after that have practice. And pretty much, repeat that every day. Yeah, prep school helps a lot because you’re more focused on basketball, and it’s just strictly basketball, and that’s what you want.”

In the fall of 2016, Rodriguez decided to commit to the University of Denver, a program on the West Coast in Denver, Colorado that competes in the Summit League. When asked what made him commit to the Pioneers, he replied, “Well, what made me decide to commit to Denver was the coaching staff, under Rodney Billups (head coach and brother of former NBA star Chauncey Billups), he helped me a lot and I feel like I can do more damage at a mid-major school, if anything.”

In his first six games as a freshman, Rodriguez averaged 11.3 points per game during the non-conference part of the season in November. After that, his minutes decreased and then he would finish the season averaging just 4.3 points per game.

Rodriguez,Elvin (3)
Rodriguez goes up for two in a game during his freshman season at the University of Denver. (Photo courtesy of the University of Denver Athletic Department)

When asked about his freshman season, he replied, “I felt like I produced every day and I came to practice well-prepared and was willing to fight, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as a young Denver player.”

However, the Pioneers finished third in the Summit League and 15-15 overall, and they plan on doing bigger things next year, especially with Rodriguez stepping up as a sophomore.

For now, he plans on working on his game and getting ready for his next season in Denver. “So my plans for this summer, is to work out as much as I can every day, get mu jump shot ten times better and go back to school eleven more pounds than what I was when I ended school [last semester] and for my upcoming sophomore year, my goal is to average around a double-double as much as I can, and do damage, and hopefully, make March Madness, as well.”

Highlights of Elvin Rodriguez:

Courtesy of East Coast Hoops.

Courtesy of In The Lab News.


Courtesy of East Coast Hoops.

Courtesy of DP3 Productions.

Courtesy of Janice Frazier.

Courtesy of DP3 Productions.


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