I’ve muttered under my breath about Kameron Rooks at times this season. I’ve yelled at my TV for him to be removed from games. I’ve even poked a little good-natured fun at him on the popular website Twitter dot com. Chances are you have done these things, too.
It’s been a pretty rough year for the graduate transfer from Cal. He’s averaging just two points per game, and with the emergence of Jalen McDaniels and Nolan Narain, he has found himself increasingly garnering the dreaded DNP-coach’s decision.
I’ve always felt a little bad about metaphorically dunking on Rooks, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, he’s unpaid labor who doesn’t owe us shit. For another … well … it’s not like he doesn’t want to be more productive. Being the guy on a popular basketball team who everybody grumbles about has to kind of suck, right?
Rooks is, to use some absolutely loathsome sports-speak, what he is. He’s a 7-foot-1 Pac-12 recruit who looks like he should be better but just … isn’t. And even though it’s not his fault, it makes us angry! We think basketball is supposed to be easy when you’re that crazy tall, and we dismiss what freakish athleticism you need to be agile and nimble at that size.
All of this made Rooks’ glorious game of redemption tonight so damn satisfying.
The Aztecs closed out the regular season with a 79-74 win over No. 21 Nevada at raucous Viejas Arena. The victory was their sixth straight and clinched a first-round bye in next week’s Mountain West Conference tournament. And Rooks, given what we all thought was going to be the courtesy senior night start-and-immediately-sit honor, instead was a difference maker.
After not tallying more than six points in any game this season, Rooks scored 12 on 6-of-6 shooting and added 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in 18 inspired minutes. With McDaniels and Malik Pope sitting with two fouls, Rooks clogged the lane and cleaned the glass as SDSU finished the first half on a 10-0 run.
While Rooks’ play put SDSU in position to win, it was the contributions of SDSU’s other two seniors that closed the deal. Trey Kell, who finished with 17 points and 9 assists, drained four free throws in a final minute and a half, particularly huge on a night where foul shooting by non-Kells (7 of 16) almost cost the Aztecs dearly. He also hit this dagger.
Pope added a workmanlike 16 points in 5 boards after being shown considerable pregame love by both the fans and the senior night ceremony script.
It was all barely enough to hold off the Wolf Pack, who make up for the fact that they only have six players with the fact that four of them are really, really good. Star guard Jordan Caroline scored a game-high 29 points while one of the Martin twins scored 22 points. No, not that one. The other one.
Of course, in the wake of a good win, we must now ask ourselves the eternal question: What if this win was actually bad?
Nah, I’m gonna go with the first one. SDSU was never going to cut down a net by praying for upsets so they could magically play St. Katherine’s in the MWC Tournament final. I hope the Aztecs face the toughest foes possible and take them all down. Over the past three weeks, they’ve proven they’re capable.
Fresno State, on Thursday at 2:30 p.m., is up first. It’s time to get what’s coming to you Bulldogs. FEAR KAM ROOKS!!!