Starkville High School senior Blake Rogers prepares to sign to play basketball at Jones County Junior College during a ceremony with his family and friends at the Starkville High library. Photo by: Scott Walters/Dispatch Staff
April 12, 2018 10:57:07 AM
STARKVILLE -- When Kenny Rogers was asked to address the audience Wednesday, he had a story ready to go.
Rogers talked about his son Blake's eighth-grade year in school.
"Blake didn't have a driver's license," the elder Rogers said. "He would ask me to take him to the gym where the high school team was practicing. I would always drop him off and ease up the road just a little bit, in case (Starkville) Coach (Greg) Carter didn't let him stay. Fortunately, he kept letting him stay."
Rogers love affair with the sport of basketball began in eighth grade. Carter saw Rogers was always in the gym. It didn't matter which team was practicing, whether it was the junior high or high school, Carter found a way to get Rogers involved in practice, running drills and set plays.
"You could tell he had some talent and he had a chance to be a player that would help us down the road," Carter said. "The main thing is that you could tell in eighth grade, he wanted it. He didn't back down. He was always eager to learn. He wanted to be the middle of everything. He just kept working at it and working at it. As a coach, you have your eye out for players who always want to be in the gym."
Things became easier for Kenny Rogers. Blake eventually earned his driver's license, which meant the pestering went from him being asked for a ride to Carter being asked for a gym key.
"I have really been blessed by the number of people who have pushed me," Rogers said. "Yes, I wanted to be a good basketball player and a good student in the classroom. At the same time, I had so many friends, family members, coaches, teachers that wanted the same thing.
"We have all pushed for this day. That is why this day is so special to me."
On Wednesday, a large crowd showed support for Rogers as he signed a basketball scholarship offer with Jones County Junior College.
As an added bonus, Wednesday also was Blake Rogers' 18th birthday.
"To be able to sign on my birthday is quite special," Rogers said. "Playing college ball is a dream for so many of us. We work hard for this day to arrive. To able to share it with friends and family and to have those people say 'Happy Birthday' too, that means a lot."
Carter said Rogers always had the work ethic to be successful. As his time in the Starkville program progressed, he quickly learned the other traits to play on a high level. Leadership was the most important.
"He always wanted to be great in basketball," Carter said. "If you look back over the last five years, I like the strides he has made as a leader on the basketball court. I like the strides that he has made as a student. He is one of the leaders of the senior class. He embodies the type of person you want to teach in the classroom, coach on the basketball court."
Roger said the love and support of Kenny and his mother, Hazella, helped make Wednesday possible. He said his parents demanded straight A's but also were willing to sacrifice to make sure all of his needs were met in basketball, from youth leagues to Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues to high school.
"If it was something I believed in, they were going to be passionate about it for me, too," Rogers said.
At Starkville High, Rogers primarily played the No 2 guard position and averaged 14 points per game as a senior to help Starkville make it back to Jackson before a semifinal-round loss to Columbus in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State tournament.
At JCJC, Rogers will play with Columbus High point guard Casey Smith, who signed last week.
In his sophomore season, Starkville lost in the state championship game. During his ninth-grade year, Starkville won a state championship in boys basketball.
"Playing for coach Carter has been an amazing experience," Rogers said. "I am really humbled and blessed. He knows the game and he knows how to care about you as a person. This has been an incredible experience. I really don't think I would have changed a thing."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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