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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Mad Ants guard Sadiel Rojas is averaging 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

‘Garbage man’ wants to win

Ants’ Rojas gets 2nd chance after injury last year

– So far in this young NBA D-League season, the most important number for Mad Ants guard Sadiel Rojas is 2, the total of Ants victories. And with every game Rojas plays, his mission is to change his most important number.

For a 6-foot-4 guard who made his collegiate chops by being the 2011 NAIA Player of the Year while at Oklahoma Wesleyan, Rojas has taken to the shadows, content – for the time being – without the spotlight.

Even though he averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds as a senior and has a You Tube highlight reel of moves and dunks, Rojas has become the low-key Ant, the consummate teammate, the Sadiel-of-all-trades.

Take the last time the Ants were inside Memorial Coliseum, for example. In a 108-101 win over Iowa, Rojas scored 16 points, had 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2 assists and jumped in to intercept an Iowa inbounds pass that set up a pair of late-game free throws that all but locked down the win.

And in describing his role, Rojas simply smiled and said, “I’m a garbage man.”

One team’s self-proclaimed trash is a coach’s treasure.

“He’s a pleasure to coach,” Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. “He comes to work every day, is a great teammate; has got energy in practices and games. Especially at our level – or at any level – guys like that are just invaluable. He can play multiple positions, and he cares whether we win or lose. He’s not just about himself at all.”

With no wife and kids, Rojas says it’s just him and basketball right now.

If the NBA takes a look at him and likes a skinny, 6-foot-4 garbage man with a lot of hops, then fine, if not, basketball is played across many ponds, and garbage men are needed there, too.

“My expectations are to go up or go overseas and get a great contract over there and establish myself over there,” Rojas said. “As of right now, I’m just learning. I’m still young. I’m only 23, so my expectations from this is to take everything that I can from all the vets, from the coaches and just add it all to my game so I can better myself.”

This is what players call their “walk year,” when a good season can get them noticed for bigger jobs and bigger money.

Rojas hoped to do that last year as a rookie with the Ants, but in a game at Iowa, he was undercut while dropping down a dunk. When he landed, he broke his back. And now it’s back to Square 1 in Season 2.

“Sadiel is trying to rehab from last year and put a good season together so he can get himself a job overseas,” Ticknor said. “This is an important year for him to get his name out there, and he’s doing that extremely well right now. Not just overseas people are talking to him, but NBA guys are saying how much they like him. That doesn’t mean he’s an NBA player, but he’s being noticed right now; he’s getting on people’s radar.”

stwarden@jg.net

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