While one Redhawk team is out on the football field getting ready for the second round of state playoffs, another group of athletes is hitting the gym, preparing for basketball season.
Most basketball programs in the county don’t have any problems juggling the overlap of the two sports, as only a few key players here and there are still on the football field while the rest of the team is on the court.
But at Monroe, things look a little different.
Only three varsity basketball players don’t play football, making it nearly impossible to hold a team practice until the rest of the Redhawks walk off the gridiron at the end of the season. Because of the overlap, Monroe doesn’t play a basketball game until Dec. 9, nearly three weeks after the rest of Union County teams begin, in order to buy the football players a little extra time to shift into basketball mode.
But the later start date doesn’t stop senior Brandon Roddy from getting in the gym with the JV team every day as he waits for his football teammates to finish up the season.
Roddy, a 6-1 guard, started last season at the point – where he topped 20 points in 17 games and had a career high 35 points in Monroe’s win against Porter Ridge. After finishing his sophomore season averaging 16 points per game, Roddy elevated his average last season to an astounding 21.3 points per game, enough to earn him the Rocky River Conference Player of the Year award.
Roddy was a crucial piece of the Redhawks’ up-tempo attack, running the offense while possessing the ability to easily put up points even in traffic. But Roddy isn’t limited to his duties at point guard – he can make shots on the outside just as easily and was one of the team’s most accurate free throw shooters last year, helping steer Monroe towards their best season since 2009.
In a stacked Rocky River conference, the Redhawks finished third last season due to an early-season loss to Piedmont and state runner-up Cuthbertson (a team they went on to beat twice), but a bronze finish didn’t stop them from making a deep run in the playoffs. Monroe had no problem taking down East Montgomery, 64-44, in the first round, and they went on to decimate Bessemer City just as easily, 75-47. But just before making it to the 2A regional round, the Redhawks suffered a heartbreaking two-point loss to North Rowan.
Monroe led North Rowan by as many as 16 points shortly after the first half, but the Cavaliers fought back to leave the score tied at 51 with less than three seconds left. North Rowan senior Oshon West grabbed a rebound and passed the ball to an open Michael Conner, who banked in a layup as the buzzer went off. With the shot, the Cavaliers took their first and only lead at the end of the game to clinch the 53-51 win.
“It was tough, losing like that last year,” Roddy said. “I wasn’t satisfied with our season because we didn’t win the championship, even though we won a lot of games. We could’ve won it all. But looking back, I guess we should be happy with the way we played because we did have a good run.”
The Redhawks boast an impressive 78-27 record since 2009 under head coach Johnny Sowell, who also coaches football and track. In 2010, the Redhawks brought home the 1A state title.
But despite all their past accolades, Roddy said he isn’t satisfied with their performance until they bring home another title in the tougher Class 2A for his senior year – something he expects to do this season, even without the help of former starting forward and current Duke quarterback Quayshawn Chambers.
“I really think we could be a lot better this year and I think we’ve got the talent to do it,” Roddy said. “We’ve got a key transfer coming in and several JV guys moving up and our JV team only lost two games last season. Yeah, we lost Quay, but we’ll be just as good.”
Roddy certainly has the veteran experience needed at point guard to control his team’s offense and lead them to a potential championship. And even when he’s not on the court with his Redhawk team, he comes from a family of basketball aficionados, there to help push the promising senior toward his best season yet.
“I started playing when I was 3 years old with my big sister. She played and was pretty good but I always wanted to beat her,” Roddy explained. “We would play one-on-one and that’s where my competitiveness came from. My whole family is into basketball, so it helps me.”
Roddy’s mother, Tammy, played on her high school team at Anson, where she was voted the team’s MVP. And his father, Claude, has coached AAU and recreational teams for more than 20 years. His younger sister, Bria, currently plays on the girls’ varsity team at Monroe, where she spent time at point guard last season and averaged seven points per game, proving that athleticism and talent on the court runs in the Roddy household.
Roddy says that it’s his family that continues to help him improve his game, and he’ll look to that support system as he begins his senior season.
“I’ve been playing AAU and my dad has sent me to a lot of camps to get ready for this year,” Roddy said. “There’s always tons of competition at camp and AAU so it’s helped me get stronger and more physical, playing with tough competition.”
For now, it’s up to Roddy to make the most of the next three weeks as he waits on his teammates to finish up on the football field.
“I’ve been working on my shot, ball handling and conditioning. But the one area I have to improve on is defense,” he said, laughing. “For four years, that’s been my answer to what I have to improve on. I’ve got to get quicker and faster on defense so I can play smarter.
“But I’m committed to doing that, and I know it’s going to be a great year.”