FRISCO, Texas (BP)–The pressure is higher and the competition is stronger, but former Southwest Baptist University men’s basketball standout Matt Rogers is working harder than ever to achieve what he believes is God’s calling on his life.
“I believe God is calling me to the NBA, so I’m not here to please reporters, coaches or GMs,” Rogers said. “I’m here to play for the King and as long as I play for Him, He will lay before me the path that I am supposed to take.”
Rogers has already faced several hurdles along the way, starting with a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament knee injury in January 2010, his last season as an SBU Bearcat.
“I had to make a decision as to whether or not I wanted to continue pursuing the NBA,” Rogers said. “I felt like God was still pushing me that way so I wasted no time and started doing everything I could to help me in the long run.”
For Rogers, a 6-foot-11, 225-pound center and forward, that meant starting his rehabilitation program early by strengthening the muscles around his right ACL before the actual surgery took place.
“Then when I had my surgery I continued my rehab vigorously in an attempt to savor any amount of bounce I might have had in that leg,” Rogers said.
It’s been a year since his surgery, and Rogers said he feels as good as new. He is especially thankful to his surgeon, Dr. Victor Wilson; his sports physical therapist and SBU assistant coach, Tina “Mama” Guiot; the staff at Citizens Memorial Healthcare: the Sports Medicine Center in Bolivar; and the many people who prayed, and continue to pray, for him.
Following Rogers’ six-month recovery time, he was invited to the Charlotte Bobcats’ training camp by former Charlotte coach Larry Brown.
“When I entered his training camp, I was very raw,” Rogers said. “I was just a month back into playing again and the NBA game was completely new to me. I had a lot to learn, but I came every day with the mindset that I was going to get better and work as hard as I could each and every day.”
His work ethic prompted Rogers to be the No. 4 overall draft pick (the top pick for the Texas Legends) in the NBA Development League.
“My knee hasn’t hindered me at all during my time here in the D-league,” Rogers said. “I did roll my ankle at the very beginning of the season, which hurt me, but I am recovered from that now and God is blessing me with good minutes and good numbers.”
Through 45 games, Rogers was playing about 19 minutes per game and averaging 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Rogers and the Texas Legends are coached by Nancy Lieberman, a former professional basketball player who is regarded as one of the greatest all-time figures in women’s basketball. She is the first and only woman ever to coach a men’s professional basketball team.
“I had the opportunity to play under Tina Guiot at Southwest Baptist, so playing under a female coach is nothing new to me,” Rogers said.
Though he acknowledges the fact that he is new to pro ball, Rogers said he has already learned a great deal, including the importance of eating and sleeping right.
“Basketball is my career, so in order to maintain the level of play that is required of me, I have learned that I have to take care of my body first and foremost … even if it means treating myself to a massage every now and then,” he said.
He also said that throughout his pursuit of the NBA, he has been blessed to learn from his teammates, coaches and other players in the league.
“I’ve also learned that information gathered must be processed and taken at face value, because not all of it is information that is going to help me reach my destination,” Rogers said.
Rogers said the NBA world is a far cry from where he grew up in Doniphan, Mo., and from his time spent at SBU.
“Having said that, I live in this new world, so anyone that is reading this I ask that you pray for me, because becoming the best player in the world would be meaningless if I lost my character in the process,” he said. “I need your prayers to ensure that I don’t stray into the world, but that I portray the true characteristics of a real Christian in the world.”
Kayla Rinker is a contributing writer for The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com
), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.