Sports

Rodd has Eagles off to best start since 1983-84 campaign

Winthrop's Tiffany Rodd has made a smooth transition from playing the post in high school to shooting guard in college.
Winthrop's Tiffany Rodd has made a smooth transition from playing the post in high school to shooting guard in college.

Call it coaching knowledge or a gut instinct. Call it intuition or a sixth sense. Call it pure luck if you want.

But no matter what you call it, Winthrop women's basketball coach Bud Childers has it covered. It is the knack of watching a post player beat and bang under the basket and seeing a potential shooting guard with the potential to become a dead-eye from beyond the 3-point arc.

It happened at couple of times when Childers coached at Murray State and again at Louisville. And, it happened when he traveled to Clinton, Tenn., to watch 6-foot Tiffany Rodd at Anderson County High School.

"I don't know what it is, but I don't think I've ever made a mistake," Childers said. "It's something about their touch with the basketball around the basket.

"Tiff reminded me of the players I recruited at Murray State and Louisville," Childers said. "I was convinced she could be a 2-guard at Winthrop."

That confidence and a promise prompted Rodd to back off her verbal commitment to tiny Maryville College just outside Knoxville, Tenn., and sign with the Lady Eagles.

"I wasn't highly recruited because big schools aren't looking for 6-foot post players," Rodd said. "After coach Childers said he wanted me to play guard, I came (to Rock Hill) and loved it. So, I signed."

Once again, Childers proved to be right on the money.

Two-plus seasons into her collegiate career, Rodd holds the school record for 3-pointers made -- 145 -- breaking the mark of 142 set in four seasons (1994-98) by Jennifer Castle.

Not bad for someone who shot a handful of 3-pointers in four years at Anderson County, where she scored 1,799 points and hauled down 1,230 rebounds.

"Oh no," Rodd said when asked if she had the green light to venture out past the 3-point arc in games. "I could shoot it in practice but not in games."

Mike Ellis used Rodd like most high school coaches. She was one of the tallest players on the team, so she played the post. Three-point shooting was confined to one-on-one games with her dad, Al, who was a multi-sport coach at Anderson County, and older brother Jesse.

"I remember asking her coach at one game could Tiff shoot the 3," Childers said. "He said yes, and I told him I'd sure like to see her shoot one in the game."

She took one, made it, and Childers was convinced he had found a 2-guard that fit the mold of his offense.

"I like my 2-guards to be 6-foot or 6-1," Childers said. "And, my 2-guards don't have to handle the basketball."

Despite her lofty numbers, big schools weren't beating a path to Al and Becky Rodd's door.

"Those schools aren't looking for 6-foot post players," Rodd said. "Coach Childers said he thought I could play guard, and then I visited the school and loved it."

Much to her surprise, Rodd made an immediate impact on the struggling Lady Eagles program. In her first game -- a start against North Florida -- Rodd scored what is still a career high in points (23) and tied the record for 3-pointers made in a game (six).

"There's no way I was expecting a game like that," Rodd, who made 6-of-10 3-pointers, said with a big smile. "I was just going with the flow like I normally do."

Rodd dropped to second in the 3-pointers made in a game when teammate Ashley Fann drilled eight against Norfolk State six games later.

"Normally I set very high goals for myself," Rodd said. "But my first year here all I wanted to do was get some playing time and maybe start one or two games by the end of the season."

Childers had different plans for Rodd and the other five freshmen he had brought in to rebuild the Lady Eagles.

"We knew that group would be the players we would build the program around," Childers said. "We kind of threw them to the wolves."

The Lady Eagles responded with a 14-15 record in 2005-06, the best since the 1985-86 mark of 16-8, Winthrop's last winning season.

Rodd started 17 games, averaged 9.5 points and shot 38 percent from beyond the arc.

Expectations were high heading into last season, but a bad case of "sophomoreitis" hit the Lady Eagles, who went 6-26.

Rodd averaged 10.8 points and made a school record 74 3-pointers, shooting 35 percent from behind the arc and matched her career high in points against N.C. State.

"Last season was very disappointing," Rodd said. "We all came back determined to work harder and stay more focused because we don't want last season to happen again."

The work has paid off.

The Lady Eagles are 6-2 -- the best start since 1983-84. They also won the Lady Pirate Invitational at East Carolina, the first time the team has won a tournament as an NCAA Division I member.

Rodd, the MVP of that tournament, is averaging a team-high 12.9 points and his shooting 41 percent (20-of-49) from 3-point range.

Ellis said he knew Rodd would be successful no matter which college she chose or what position she played.

"She made the players around her better by the way she conducted herself," said Ellis, who coached Rodd her last year at Anderson County High School. "She showed them how to win.

"Tiffany was normally a very quiet person, but when it came time to speak up, she would become very vocal. And when she talked, they all listen."

Rodd vividly recalls one game in high school when that happened.

"I remember one game in high school when we were losing to a team we shouldn't have been," Rodd said. "I lost it on the bench. Coach didn't say a thing. We came out of that time out and we won the game."

The Mavericks were 21-11 Rodd's senior year and advanced to the semifinals of the Class AA regionals. This year Anderson County has struggled to a 3-2 start.

"Right now," Ellis said with a sigh, "I don't have a Tiffany to go to."

Childers does and it's paying off.

"Tiff has calmness about her when she's on the court," Childers said. "She might be nervous inside but you'd never know it. She always has that poker face when she's on the floor.

"She wants the ball in her hands when we need a big shot, and she's made a bunch of those for us."

Winthrop is back in action this afternoon at 2:30 at Davidson. The game ends a rigorous and draining six-game road swing.

• What: Winthrop at Davidson

• When: 2:30 p.m.

• Where: John M. Belk Arena, Davidson, N.C.

• Tickets: 1-800-768-CATS

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