Oak Creek — Angela Rodriguez's transformation from star-in-the-making to star is complete.
Through her first three seasons on the varsity, Rodriguez was a key contributor whose statistics often took a back seat to those of standout post player Stephanie Running.
But in her fourth season, this one as the Knights' lone senior, Rodriguez has grabbed the spotlight with her stellar play and has led the Knights to a 5-1 start.
The statistical jump Rodriguez has made between her junior and senior seasons has been astronomical.
After averaging 8.0 and 9.0 points per game her freshman and sophomore seasons, Rodriguez cracked double digits at 11.3 as a junior in her first season as the point guard.
But this season, even as teams do everything in their power to stop her, or at least slow her down, Rodriguez has boosted her average to 20.5 points per game, including a season-high 31 in the Knights' 59-45 nonconference win over visiting West Allis Central on Dec. 22 and 16 in a 43-35 win over Ashwaubenon in the first round of a holiday tournament Monday.
'Just playing hard'
"I think it's just happening," Rodriguez said. "At the end of the game, I really don't have a clue how many points I have. I'm just playing hard and trying to contribute."
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit has led her team in scoring in all six games and has scored fewer than 16 points just once.
"It always seems to be a quiet 31 or a quiet 20," first-year Oak Creek coach Steve Hluchnik said. "She's not forcing shots, and she runs the offense and takes what the defense is giving to here. (Against Central) she was taking it to the basket, getting fouled and making her free throws (16 of 20). The thing I've been most impressed with is how controlled she is when running the offense."
Provided she stays healthy, Rodriguez should become just the third girls player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau, joining Jean Vallier (1,481 points, 1993-97) and Running (1,320, 2005-09). At her current pace, Rodriguez would need 10 more games, as of Tuesday, to join that elite group.
A team leader
But beyond the numbers, Rodriguez, a team captain, has stepped up in her role as a leader, one she feels compelled to fill as the team's only senior.
"It's a little hard, but I'm prepared to take the role," she said. "When things go wrong, I'll be the one to get yelled at, but I have to handle it well, so the rest of the team can look up to me. It's new only in the way that I am a senior. But I was a point guard last year, so I was a leader, I just didn't have the captain title."
Rodriguez has had plenty of help during the Knights' fast start. Juniors Ashley Luke (11.3) and Cydney Weisflog (9.2) have combined for more than 20 points per game for a team that has four sophomores that get regular minutes.
"The whole team is growing up game by game and learning what we want, not just Angela," Hluchnik said. "When we lost to Racine Case (Dec. 11), we were up 15 points at the half, and in the second half, we panicked. But that was a big, big learning lesson for us. We learned how to handle pressure and how teams will try to take Angela out of the game."
Tough road ahead
After the holiday break, the Knights have a grueling start to January with games with Franklin (Jan. 5), Pius XI (Jan. 12) and Muskego (Jan. 19) among the first five games of the new year.
Rodriguez hopes she and her teammates can continue what they have started.
"Every team wants to win conference," she said. "We just want to keep up our good record and play to the best our abilities and see where we get with that."
Knights all-time leading scorers
1. Jean Vallier, 1,481 points (1993-97)
2. Stephanie Running, 1,320 (2005-09)
3. Kayleigh White, 905 (2003-06)
4. Jamie Baker, 846 (1997-2001)
5. Andi Eaton, 836 (1996-2000)
Angela Rodriguez, 798 ( 2006-10)*
* - as of Monday
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