The Southwest Mississippi Community College men’s basketball team had several players sign with four-year schools last season and the tradition has already picked up again this year.
A pair of sophomore guards have recently signed their letters of intent to go to schools in the state of Georgia. Spencer Rodgers signed with Kennesaw State while Jackson-native Robert Kendrick is headed to Fort Valley State.
For Rodgers, who was a starter last season for the Bears, it will be a homecoming, as he grew up only an hour away from Kennesaw’s campus.
“I’m just excited to start somewhere else and make an impact at my next school, and make some history” he said. “I want to bring a winning mentality to the school.”
Rodgers chose to sign with the Owls over offers from Appalachian State and Arkansas-Little Rock, among others.
“I committed pretty early because of the relationship that I had with the coaches and being back home is too good of an opportunity.”
He is thankful for his time in Summit after spending his freshman year in Alabama playing for the Troy Trojans.
“My time at Southwest has definitely humbled me coming from a D-I to a JUCO,” he said. “It showed me that I should be grateful for what I have and how hard that I need to work every day to reach the level of success that I want to reach.”
SMCC coach Bryan Bender said that he was very-pleased with Rodgers work, both on and off the court.
“He is a Southwest type of kid, high academic, really cared about his teammates, was low maintenance off the floor, made a difference on campus and always had a smile on his face,” Bender said. “He worked extremely hard on his game to try and expand. He came in as sort of a shooter or specialist. He had some big games for us, was a starter and really helped take our program in the right direction.”
For Kendrick, signing with the Wildcats is a dream come true.
“I have always wanted to go to a four-year school but things happened and I took the JUCO route and it made me better,” he said. “I’ll be ready to make an impact as soon as I get there and not be a guy just watching. I want to make a difference.”
He chose Fort Valley over a slew of offers including Alabama State, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Texas A&M-Commerce and Minnesota State, among others. And due to the coronavirus pandemic, he had to do a virtual tour of the campus in central Georgia.
Other than playing in an AAU league, this will be the first time Kendrick has played basketball outside the state of Mississippi.
After a year of getting his feet wet in Summit during the 2018-19 season, Kendrick began to make big strides in the Bears’ lineup last year before a wrist injury ended his season. But he looked at his injury as a blessing in disguise. He continued to cheer his team on from the bench while studying the game even further.
“When I injured my wrist, it really opened my eyes,” he said. “I missed 10 games. I feel that sitting out really helped me because I could actually watch the game and study how the secondary defense was coming on to us, how to read the defense on the back side. I figured out a lot of stuff just by watching and I learned a lot about the game.”
Bender praised Kendrick for the strides he has taken in his two years at SMCC.
“‘RK’ was a kid that came in literally as a kid and left here as a man,” he said. “He is the epitome of a kid that just loves basketball. “We joked and called him Big Shot Rob. I’m glad that he stuck with us and he constantly got better.”