MANHATTAN — There are times when Kansas State coach Bruce Weber is amazed by what Angel Rodriguez can do with a basketball.
There are also times when that admiration turns to disappointment.
Lately, those emotions have been bouncing back and forth at an alarming rate.
“He has got to keep his poise,” Weber said. “He can’t get rattled. There might be a play where he thinks he gets fouled, he can’t go down and foul to make up for it. That’s where he has got to learn. He has got to mature as a player. I want him to be aggressive, but he can’t carry it too far. He has done that a couple times.”
K-State’s past two games provide a perfect window into the sophomore point guard’s playing style.
Without his speed and aggression, K-State might not have held on for a 73-67 victory over Oklahoma State or a 65-64 win at West Virginia. Rodriguez had eight assists against the Cowboys and two steals. Then he scored nine points before ruining West Virginia’s comeback chances by deflecting a pass on the final play.
As Weber analyzed the games on video, he noticed the positives, such as Rodriguez making a key three-pointer and coming off multiple ball screens to score on difficult shots.
“All of a sudden there he goes,” Weber said. “There are all these big guys and this little guy sneaks through and gets an easy layup. He is smart at using angles, keeping his balance, not going too fast, changing speeds.”
But there were also negatives. Rodriguez fouled out against Oklahoma State, needlessly challenging ball-handlers on their way up court and trying to draw charges in odd situations. His fifth foul occurred 90 feet from the basket. At West Virginia, he lost four turnovers and once again took too many risks that led to fouls. There were times he dribbled into double teams and forced shots rather than kicking the ball out to open teammates.
“This is not a one-on-one battle,” Weber said. “This is five on five. He’s part of the team. He’s got to keep it in the system.”
Without those mistakes, No. 16 K-State might not have needed Rodriguez to do so much in other areas.
It’s the same dilemma he faced as a freshman, when he led the team in both assists (101) and turnovers (85). How does he cut down on mistakes without minimizing the aggressive style that makes him an effective player?
That’s a question he and his coaches are pondering as they prepare to face TCU at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on Wednesday night. While they search for answers, Rodriguez is trying to stay confident.
He admits he could have done more in his last two games, but he is still recovering from an injury that kept him out of practice for two weeks and on the bench for two games. He did what he could.
“I tried to make the plays at the end of the game to help the team win,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like I was pretty successful.”
As a sophomore, he has 57 assists and 31 turnovers. That’s an improvement from last year, but he wants more. He wants to take fewer risks and make more highlight-reel plays. He is listening to his coaches, who recently showed him video of NBA guards Steve Nash and Deron Williams and pointed out how they stay under control while utilizing their speed.
Rodriguez can do the same, but not consistently. He is ready for that to change.
“I’m all about winning,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t care if I score 30 or two. I just like to win. Whatever I have got to do to help my team win I will do it.”