Angel Rodriguez is used to hearing he is undersized for his basketball dreams; and once again, he is determined to prove skeptics wrong as the NBA Draft approaches next month.
The 5-11 point guard, who led the Hurricanes to the Sweet 16, has been working out continuously since the end of the college basketball season. He made the All-Tournament team at the Portsmouth Invitational senior showcase (averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 assists in three games) and was invited to a Wednesday workout with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
He is flying up Tuesday with UM teammate Tonye Jekiri, who also has a workout scheduled with the Wolves. Neither Rodriguez nor 7-foot Jekiri is projected to be drafted by the most popular mock drafts.
“I’m still an underdog in other people’s minds,” he said by phone Monday. “So, the way I see it, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am enjoying the moment, feeling no tension or pressure. This is a great opportunity, and I’m in great shape and feeling very enthusiastic.”
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He spent Monday studying tape of the Timberwolves. He said new coach Tom Thibodeau, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, is known to like hard-nosed defenders and has a history of giving shorter-than-average players a chance. Bulls guard Aaron Brooks is 6 feet tall.
“I probably don’t have the 6-3 body frame most people want, but many of those guys don’t have my IQ or my will to win,” Rodriguez said. “I think IQ tends to be underrated. I can make other players better, and I’m a great teammate. That is what I hope they learn during these interviews and by watching me play.”
Rodriguez said participating in the Portsmouth Invitational was an “awesome” experience. He played in front of scouts from every NBA team and also from China, Italy, Germany, Spain, Israel and many other countries.
“Everywhere you looked were guys taking notes,” he said. “Some players tried to do too much to impress the scouts and they ended up ruining their stock. I was told by many people to just play my game, not try too hard, so that’s what I did. I’m just staying focused and motivated. Nobody is babysitting you when you’re out of college, so it’s all up to you.”
Meanwhile, UM teammate Sheldon McClellan had a good showing at the NBA Draft combine. He has nine more team tryouts scheduled — Indiana on Tuesday, Brooklyn May 19, Milwaukee May 20, Los Angeles Lakers May 23, Chicago June 2, San Antonio June 6, Dallas June 14, Houston June 15 and L.A. Clippers June 20. The draft is June 23.
McClellan is projected as a second-round pick by Draft Express.