Jeff Pendergraph has scars and bruises as tangible evidence of daily confrontations with Taylor Rohde. Though not positive, he’s pretty confident Rohde inadvertently gave him that black eye a couple of weeks ago.
He also got landed on by Rohde and missed practice/scrimmage time with a bruised back. Plus the knee, legs and arms have been hit.
Pendergraph is a 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior. Rohde is a 6-foot-8, 225-pound freshman, which means the numbers don’t align in the newcomer’s favor.
But neither is a dirty player, and Pendergraph knows retaliation won’t help the Arizona State men’s basketball team’s cause because Rohde, the former Phoenix Pinnacle standout, has already given this team a boost.
He’s (unofficially) taken three charges in the team’s first two games of the season, and his first career points in college basketball couldn’t have come at a better time.
Rohde “creates action,” in the words of ASU coach Herb Sendek, and the previous four years of playing in a motion-style offense at Pinnacle and in AAU have allowed Rohde to catch on quickly enough to earn playing time behind Pendergraph.
It means Pendergraph has to mind his manners while helping his new teammate prepare for the gauntlet ahead, so the “freshman orientation” may not be coming soon.
“I’m trying to think about the bigger picture,” Pendergraph said.
“I’m going to need him. If I get hurt beating him up that’s worse, then two of us are out.”
Far from an antagonist, Rohde won’t leap over or run past people, but the Sun Devils recruited him for his size and versatility, plus his basketball smarts and ability to hit outside shots.
It’s started to show.
James Harden had picked up a technical foul and the Sun Devils suddenly trailed by eight points again in the midst of a San Diego State run last Tuesday night.
An implosion seemed possible, until Rohde hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to five and the Sun Devils outscored San Diego State 34-19 during the final 13 minutes of ASU’s first road win of the season.
It was a shot his teammates said probably saved the game.
“I loved it,” Rohde said. “I always loved playing on the road, club or high school. I like the adversity and people not wanting you to do well.”
Though there are no records kept, Pendergraph likes to stake claim as being the school’s leader in charges taken, but Rohde is already closing the gap.
The willingness to get run over stems from Pioneers coach Charlie Wilde, who spent 20 to 30 minutes in practice taking charges.
That’s an hour per week of getting run over, the counter for not being a true shot-blocker.
“I’m just trying to be in the right place at right time and if I see someone in the lane out of control and think I can get there, I’ll take it on,” Rohde said.
He hasn’t flinched yet, and though things will be different when the likes of Washington, UCLA or Washington State show up on the schedule, having an early impact with eyes wide open has been a win-win for the Sun Devils.
“He’s adjusted pretty well,” Pendergraph said. “I think even if you didn’t really know the offense, I think you could throw him out there and he’d make good things.”