NAU Rogers’ 29 helps Jacks down Haskell in exhibition in Murphy’s debut
By Kevin Bertram
The shots were not always easy ones for senior guard Gabe Rogers. Some were off-balance; others were long-range bombs thrown up after curling off of a screen; most, if not all, were physically contested.
Most of them went in, giving Rogers 29 points on the night and leading the Jacks to a 81–60 victory over Haskell Indian Nations University in the Jacks’ first of two exhibition games in the Rolle Activity Center.
“I’m just going to keep building,” Rogers said. “I’m just going to keep having my confidence — my swagger. I’m just going to keep playing.”
Against Haskell, an NAIA school, Rogers led all scorers on 12-of-21 shooting, which included four 3-pointers. Backcourt mate and fellow senior Stallon Saldivar added 11 points on perfect shooting from the field to go along with six assists and five steals. Freshman forward Blake Hamilton also contributed 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench.
Junior guard Grant Proctor led Haskell in scoring with 13. The Indians, however, turned the ball over 32 times for the evening and were held to only 39 percent shooting for the second half.
Playing despite having missed a whole week of practice with an ankle sprain, Rogers said he is completely healthy and ready to get back to where he left off after his sophomore campaign.
“I have a whole lot of confidence,” Rogers said. “People kind of thought I fell off last year, but I was going through a whole lot of things — surgery and stuff. I’m basically the same player. I’m at the same production level, as a player, I was [during] my sophomore year.”
His coach had nothing but praise for the six-foot-two guard.
“Tonight, [Rogers] was a one-man scoring crew out there,” said head coach Jack Murphy.
Emphasizing his team needs to work to get Rogers better looks, Murphy said the senior guard has the composure the Jacks need to compete.
“He was fantastic,” Murphy said. “He missed the last few days of practice with an ankle injury, so for him to come back after not practicing and have a performance like that shows his level of experience and shows he’s a veteran player. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Rogers scored his points in a variety of ways, ranging from fast break layups to 3-point hoists to off-balance, pull-up jump shots from mid-range. Murphy said, while he liked what he saw from Rogers, the team needs to work on moving the ball around and putting him in better positions to score.
“I’d like to get him better shots,” Murphy said. “I know tonight he took a couple of tough shots that he made, [but] I need to get him better looks and easier looks at the basket, because, as we move forward, teams are going to focus in on Gabe.”
Hamilton said the team will be looking to Rogers all season to provide an offensive punch.
“Gabe is a flat-out scorer,” Hamilton said. “That’s what he does at practice, that’s what he does at open gym and that’s what he does all the time. We expect him to score and lead us in that department.”
It was a difficult night for the Indians, who only trailed the Jacks by nine after the end of the first half, despite turning the ball over 19 times in that period.
However, the Jacks stepped up their defense in the second half, which led to not only another 13 turnovers, but the Indians’ field-goal percentages diving from 53 percent in the first half to only 39 percent in the second half.
The Jacks’ frontcourt efforts were hindered when senior forward Ephraim Ekanem was forced to the bench with two fouls with 11:30 left in the first half. He would play only 12 minutes. With 16:30 remaining in the second half, Murphy and the Jacks went small, unveiling a four-guard lineup featuring Ekanem as the only player on the court over 6-foot-3.
In the second half, the Jacks began to pull away by getting to the line, as the Jacks connected on 13 of their 15 free throw attempts.
The Jacks will return to Rolle on Nov. 3 for their second exhibition game against the Adams State Grizzlies. From there, they will open the regular season on the road, facing Oregon and UNLV on Nov. 10 and Nov. 12.