Isiah Zeek Rodney is used to hearing his name mentioned from the press box of District Three Stadium South during football season.
Once of the states top junior players, Rodney is a leader on the Stallion football team as a premiere pass rusher on the defensive line. He is drawing interest from top Division 1 programs including South Carolina, North Carolina, LSU and Alabama to name a few.
On Friday night, however, Rodneys value transcended the gridiron. He became a primary factor for the fourth-ranked Stallion basketball team, which defeated fifth-ranked Rock Hill 62-59 to assume sole possession of first place in Region 3-AAAA.
With a star-studded line-up on the Stallions, showcasing Anthony Johnson, P.J. Heath, Tyreece Brice, and the Bearcats highlighting Jalen Reed, Roderick Howell and Nate Motley, Rodney may have been considered an afterthought.
Standing 6-1 and weighing 250 pounds, Rodney may not be built like the prototypical basketball player.
But his play stood tall and made the difference for the Stallion victory.
Rodney scored 12 crucial points, dished two assists, grabbed seven rebounds and made 5 of 8 free throws, including three down the stretch.
Defensively, Rodney picked off three steals, including a crucial interception with the Stallions leading 60-57 with 21.4 seconds remaining. That led to his converting one-of-two to make it a two-possession game in the closing seconds.
However, Rodneys most valuable contribution may not have shown up in the stat book. His ball-handling skills were crucial in setting up the Stallion offense as a point forward.
When people see his size, they may look at him and feel that he is a big man who cannot handle the ball, South Pointe coach Melvin Watson said. But his ball handling skills is what we depend on in the middle of the zone defense.
We ran our offense through him in the second half and allowed him to make decisions. He is the glue for us with a solid I.Q. and good decision maker.
Watson compared Rodney to former NBA star Anthony Mason.
:He can handle the ball and do a lot of things that do not show up in the score book. I cannot say enough about him.
Rodney said that his ball-handling skills come from his younger days on the middle school and youth league level.
I wasnt always this big; I was a point guard before and that is why I got good ball-handling skills, Rodney said. I have been playing basketball since the third grade.
Coach likes to run a lot of physical isolations; I do not like to score much, he said. I really prefer to pass. I like to draw the ball in the middle and find the open looks for teammates.
That was more than enough for the Stallions, particularly in the fourth quarter when South Pointe initiated a strategy to go into a ball-control offense designed to shorten the game also pull the Bearcats out of their zone defense.
With South Pointe ahead by two and with every possession being crucial, Watson felt more than comfortable with Rodney handling at the top of the key.
That paid off, as the Stallions took a step toward the Region 3-AAAA title and potential home-court advantage in the upcoming Class-AAAA playoffs.