Rodney Rogers grew up in Durham, N.C., playing pickup games in Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. So it's not surprising that he felt comfortable enough there last Saturday to score a career-high 35 points in leading Wake Forest to a 98-86 win over the Blue Devils. Rogers, a 6'7" junior forward, also had eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals. "He was sensational," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, "and that's probably not giving him enough credit. I have a limited vocabulary. It was as good a performance as I've seen in 13 years in Cameron."
It was a fine homecoming for Rogers, whose memories of Durham aren't all happy ones. He lived in the McDougald Terrace housing project, where, says Rogers, "If guys aren't after you to buy drugs, they're after you to sell them." Even today, when he comes home for visits, his mother, Estella Spencer, doesn't let him go out at night. His father, Willie Wadsworth, died when Rodney was eight. One of his half brothers, Stacy, was born deaf, and his other half brother, Stanley, served 10 years in prison for armed robbery. When Rodney was 16, Estella was in an auto accident and was in a coma for almost three weeks.
Shortly afterward, she moved Rodney out of the projects, sending him to live with a high school teammate, Nathaniel Brooks, on the outskirts of Durham. Brooks's father, Nathaniel Sr., is a former high school teacher, and under his guidance Rogers blossomed both academically and athletically, making the honor roll and averaging 28.3 points and 12.3 rebounds as a senior.
Rogers has been Wake Forest's star from the moment he arrived in Winston-Salem. At the end of the week he was averaging 21.1 points and 7.3 rebounds for the 16-4 Demon Deacons, whose victory on Saturday put Duke into fourth place in the ACC, a half game behind third-place Wake. "Rodney's in the wrong league," says Richmond coach Dick Tarrant. "He's in the ACC. He should be in the NBA."
That will come soon enough, perhaps after this season, though Rogers says he has promised his mother he will get his bachelor's degree. Waiting another year for a big professional contract doesn't seem like such a hardship for Rogers, especially considering the ones he has already been through and survived.
NAME FOR THE GAME
His name alone should have indicated to Spencer Dunkley that he was destined to play basketball, but as a boy in Wolverhampton, England, the significance of his surname never occurred to him. "I was more concerned with soccer and cricket," says Dunkley. "I knew what a dunk was, but I certainly didn't think about it much. If my last name had been, say, Goalscorer, then I might have paid attention."
But Dunkley eventually found his way to the courts and to the U.S., where NBA scouts have found him. A 6'11" senior center at Delaware, he leads the Blue Hens in scoring (20.8 points per game at week's end), rebounding (13.5) and blocks (3.5). He has had some spectacular performances this season, including a 39-point, 15-rebound effort against Vermont last Saturday. In two games against Hartford center Vin Baker, a probable NBA first-round draft choice, he had a total of 39 points and 29 rebounds. Not bad for someone who began playing seriously only six years ago. Dunkley took up the sport in England when he was 16, largely because at 6'9" he felt like a giraffe on the soccer field. The following year he came to the States as an exchange student and played basketball his senior season at Newark (Del.) High.
Dunkley weighed only 180 pounds at the time, and since then, he has gained 60 pounds and a low-post game. Delaware coach Steve Steinwedel believes Dunkley hasn't begun to reach the limits of his ability. "I'm still learning things every day from people I play with and against," says Dunkley. "I realize everyone's got a head start on me. I grew up idolizing Maradona and Pel�, not Jordan and Bird."