Long before Alexandria’s Colton Roderick became the focal point of every opposing team’s defensive game plan, he was getting up thousands of shots away from the spotlight.
Roderick spent hours a day at the YMCA from a young age. Sometimes it meant he had to miss out on other activities with friends, but he did it with the hope that one day it would lead to the kind of career and season he and his teammates are having right now.
“It’s been a stress reliever,” Roderick said of the game. “It really helps me because if I play bad in a game, I’ll go shoot 100 free throws...It’s been a grind, but it’s worth it. I just love the game. I don’t even know how I got into it. It was when I was younger, but I did start a little later. I’ve just loved it ever since, and I’d rather be (playing basketball) than anything.”
Roderick is more than a scorer for Alexandria (9-0), but it was about scoring against Bemidji (3-5) in a 52-41 win over the Lumberjacks on Friday night. He needed seven points to reach 1,000 for his career coming into the game.
He was well aware of it too. This was a milestone he wanted to reach at home in front of his friends and family. So much so that he asked head coach Forrest Witt to take him out of the game late against Willmar on Thursday night with that 70-38 win easily locked up.
Roderick missed three threes to start the game against Bemidji and had four points at halftime with Alexandria clinging to a 22-18 lead behind eight points from senior center Kobe Jenson.
"We’re so tight this year. We mess with each other...There’s never really been a time where we were like, ‘I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be playing basketball with these guys.’ We’ve always been happy to be around each other."
- Colton Roderick on the cohesion of this year's team
Roderick got a layup in transition after the break. A few minutes later, junior guard Kristen Hoskins rifled a pass from the three-point line to a cutting Roderick down low. He caught it, went up and put the ball off the glass where it was tipped by Bemidji sophomore Isaac Severts for a goaltending call that gave him eight points and 1,001 in his career.
“I came in with extra nerves and I was anxious,” Roderick said. “My shot was just going so far. It didn’t come easy. The nerves were out there, so it was just good to get it.”
The play came with a bit of a scare when Severts landed on Roderick’s right ankle as he came down. Roderick had already rolled the ankle earlier in the game, and he was again trying to walk the pain away before they announced he had passed 1,000 points.
Teammates congratulated Roderick near Alexandria’s bench. He then grabbed the ball and took it to his mother in the stands before giving her a hug.
“She’s been with me the whole way,” Roderick said. “AAU and everything. She’s drove me there and back. She’s been on all the rides with me. She’s just been the best.”
Roderick is averaging nearly 24 points this season, but he finished with 13 Friday while playing through added emotions and a sore ankle part of the game. Hoskins had big plays in the second half on his way to a game-high 16 points.
“Kobe Jenson gave us some good minutes in both halves,” head coach Forrest Witt said. “Kristen made some real nice plays when we needed a bucket...We’re going to need different guys to find ways to lift us up and give us a boost some nights.”
Roderick, who will play at Bemidji State University next season and was one of 53 players in the state named to Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball Award watch list on Feb. 10, has been incredibly efficient with his scoring through much of the season.
Through the first seven games, he shot 57.8% overall. That includes 51.5% from three on 4.7 attempts per game. He was shooting 60.5% from inside the arch and 78.6% on free-throws.
“Colton has been an extremely hard worker,” Witt said. “An intelligent basketball player. Great teammate...He’s a guy who has really propelled our program to another dimension in a lot of ways. Not just him, but he’s been a critical part of it the last three, four years.”
At 6-feet, 5-inches, Roderick is also averaging 3.9 steals per game for an Alexandria team that is holding opponents to a Section-8-3A low 49.8 points a night.
“Starting with (assistant coach Tom) Miller, my first year I played for him, he always taught me that defense will win games,” Roderick said. “I just love playing defense. It gets me going. It gets everyone else going when you’re rolling on defense.”
The Cardinals have won a lot of games during Roderick’s time on varsity, and this might be the best team he has played with yet. Alexandria’s nine straight wins include a 5-0 record against Section 8-3A opponents and an 8-0 mark in the Central Lakes Conference.
“We’re so tight this year,” Roderick said of his teammates. “We mess with each other...There’s never really been a time where we were like, ‘I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be playing basketball with these guys.’ We’ve always been happy to be around each other.”
It’s a cohesion that is showing on the court with Alexandria starting to distance itself from the rest of the Section 8-3A pack in terms of seeding implications. Sartell-St. Stephen (6-3), Sauk Rapids-Rice (4-4) and Detroit Lakes (6-2) round out the top four seeds right now through the QRF on Minnesota-scores.net.
Bemidji pushed Alexandria, but the Cardinals never trailed in the second half. All nine wins for Alexandria have come by double digits, but this was one it had to work for on a memorable night across the board.
“I like those tight, close games,” Roderick said. “That’s when a team needs to thrive and it shows what a team is made of. I loved to see how we pushed through in this game.”
ALEXANDRIA 22 30 - 52
BEMIDJI 18 23 - 41
ALEXANDRIA SCORING - Carter Steffensmeier - 4; Myles Sansted - 3; Wyatt Odland - 2; Kristen Hoskins - 16; Erik Hedstrom - 6; Colton Roderick - 13; Kobe Jenson - 8
BEMIDJI SCORING - James Williams - 12; Isaiah Biehn - 2; Sam Wilson - 11; Isaac Severts - 6; Gavin Luksik - 9; James LaValley - 1