Pearson Seizes Opportunity Presented By Injury
Jan. 7, 2007
By Marty Mishow, Southeast Missourian
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Roderick Pearson says he has never lacked for confidence on a basketball court.
But even Pearson admits to being just a bit surprised at how well he has performed since being thrust into the role of Southeast Missouri State's starting point guard.
The numbers Pearson has put up over the past several weeks would be impressive for an older player, even a senior.
Considering Pearson is a true freshman, what he has been doing is fairly remarkable.
"I am somewhat [surprised], but I can expect that from myself if I play hard," he said. "I've always been confident."
Pearson began the season as the backup to junior Paul Paradoski, playing significant minutes and experiencing the normal growing pains of a rookie college player less than a year removed from high school.
"It was kind of rough early. I expected it," said Pearson, who had considerably more turnovers than assists during the early part of the season. "I talked with my dad all the time. He told me I'm just a freshman and it will take time.
"I just tried to play through it."
When Paradoski suffered a knee injury in practice several weeks ago, Pearson joined the starting lineup on Dec. 17 against Jacksonville State.
He has taken off ever since.
In the six games he has started, the 6-foot-2 Pearson is averaging 12 points per game, to go along with 23 assists and nine steals.
But in the four Ohio Valley Conference games during which Pearson has run the offense, he is averaging 13.8 points -- while hitting eight of 14 3-pointers -- and has compiled 20 assists and seven steals against only four turnovers.
Pearson has helped lead the Redhawks (5-11, 3-4 OVC) to two straight conference wins, by 14 and 15 points, after they suffered two consecutive league losses on last-second shots.
In OVC play only, Pearson leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at an exceptional 3.5 (28 assists, eight turnovers).
He also ranks sixth in assists, 14th in steals and ninth in 3-point shooting (42.1 percent) in OVC games.
Asked if Pearson has a chance to be a special player down the line, Southeast coach Scott Edgar said, "To me, he's been special so far. The numbers he is putting up are very impressive.
"Rod has tremendous poise. We've kind of thrown this at him, but he's handled it very well."
Edgar said Pearson's work rate, coupled with his talent, is what will lead to big things for him at Southeast.
"Despite him being one of the youngest players we have, Rod works as hard or harder than any player," Edgar said. "He has a lot of talent, and his work ethic will make him a great player."
In Pearson's second start, he nearly led the Redhawks to an upset of OVC preseason favorite Samford by scoring 18 points and hitting a go-ahead shot in the final seconds -- only to see the Bulldogs win at the buzzer.
Tuesday night, another stellar performance by Pearson helped Southeast end a six-game losing streak as he had career highs of 22 points, 11 assists and five steals in an 88-74 victory at Eastern Kentucky.
"My scoring has been somewhat surprising," said Pearson, a former high school standout in Raytown, Mo., which is near Kansas City. "Coming to college, I didn't think I'd put up big numbers like against Eastern Kentucky and Samford this early."
Edgar was hired in April -- and Pearson said he never really considered opting out of his letter of intent, especially after learning of Edgar's up-tempo style that seemingly fits Pearson like a glove. It also probably didn't hurt that Dean was retained on Edgar's staff.
"After talking to coach Edgar, I felt like this would still be a really good place for me," Pearson said. "And I was glad that coach Dean was still going to be here because he recruited me."
Pearson, who is averaging 7.4 points on the season -- along with 41 assists and 39 turnovers -- is just one of three freshmen who have been key players for the Redhawks.
Forward JaJuan Maxwell, who also signed with Southeast before Garner was let go, is averaging 6.8 points and is the Redhawks' top 3-point shooter at 48.1 percent (13 of 27).
Guard Marcus Rhodes, one of the first players Edgar signed after he took over the program, is averaging 5.9 points.
Maxwell and Rhodes, who both primarily come off the bench, have had a knack for hitting clutch shots in key moments.
They are among the OVC's top 3-point shooters during conference play, Maxwell tied for first at 57.1 percent (8 of 14) and Rhodes third at 53.8 percent (7 of 13).
"Those three have been playing very well for us," Edgar said.
Paradoski, who has been steady if not spectacular as Southeast's starting point guard ever since his freshman season, missed four games with his injury.
In a role reversal, Paradoski has served as Pearson's backup the past two games and the veteran has provided solid minutes -- which Edgar said makes for a nice situation. The depth paid off in Thursday's 80-65 win against Eastern Illinois.
"They complement each other very well, and I think we're getting very good play out of the point guard position," Edgar said. "Rod got into foul trouble [Thursday], and Paul came in and did a great job."
Although it's not likely that Pearson will come out of the lineup any time soon, he said he's comfortable either starting or coming off the bench, as long as Southeast continues playing well -- which he plans on.
"We've got our confidence now," he said. "The season is still early and anything can happen. We can still have a really good year."