WEST JORDAN In West Jordan's 27-point victory over Hunter last Thursday, Jaguars point guard Gabriella Rodriguez showed off an arsenal of dazzling moves.
She scored her first basket when she drove hard to the hoop before seemingly running and jumping out of space near the baseline. No problem. She made a mid-air adjustment with her shooting hand and banked in a layup.
She handled the ball like a pro, dribbling between her legs, changing directions and breaking ankles. She made no-look passes, and she froze a defender with a jump stop to set up a successful 3-point attempt.
Ultimately, what Rodriguez showed is that there might not be a more exciting player in the state.
"She brings energy," said West Jordan coach Carlson Boudreaux. "She brings excitement. She really wants to attack everything. Every time she gets the chance she wants to go after whatever's there."
Rodriguez's attacking and aggressive style of play has been shaped by several factors. The flashiness the fancy dribbling and no-look passes comes from the style of play she's witnessed and been a part of in New York. Her father is from Uruguay and her mother grew up in the Bronx.
Rodriguez has family that still resides in New York, so she sometimes visits there and gives her soccer-loving relatives some basketball lessons.
Her toughness is a product of playing with and against boys. From the fifth grade through the eighth grade, she played on super league teams with boys. She did more than hold her own against them and the competition made her a better player.
In fact, although it isn't the most politically correct statement to make, tell Rodriguez she plays like a guy and she'll smile.
"That's the best compliment I could get," Rodriguez said. "Say I play like a guy and that's good."
There are, however, more aspects to Rodriguez's game than making plays that elicit oohs and aahs from her home fans. She runs West Jordan's offense as its point guard, and is working to become an efficient leader for the Jaguars.
Her fiery attitude and intensity is also a big reason why West Jordan has won four of its last five games.
"She helps us stay focused, gets things running," said West Jordan junior Whitney Woodruff. "She's our point guard, so she runs our team. I know I look to her for support. We need her to (help us) be the team we are."
Rodriguez forms a solid one-two scoring punch with Woodruff. Rodriguez averages 13.75 points per game, 12th best in Class 5A. Woodruff is close behind her at 11.08 points per game.
"She's looking more and more to get her teammates involved," Boudreaux said. "She sometimes thinks that maybe she's looking to shoot more than she should. I don't think so. I think she's out there penetrating, looking for her teammates."
Looking for ways to improve in both basketball and school takes up almost all of Rodriguez's time. She is a quality student with a 3.8 cumulative grade point average.
Rodriguez, a junior, has some college programs recruiting her to play for them. Playing in college would fulfill a lifelong dream for her, and enable her to play the sport she loves for a few more years."If I'm not working on homework, I'm playing basketball," Rodriguez said. "Basketball is my passion. It's basically what I live for."
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