For the first time in his career, Rodney Elliott found himself on the sidelines for an extended period of time.
After winning America East Rookie of the Year honors in his first season at UMBC, his sophomore year quickly ended after he tore the labrum in his left shoulder in their season opener at Akron. He had surgery in December, his first surgery, and spent time away from being involved on the court for the first time.
“The injury set me back a little, but it helped out,” Elliott said. “I believe I got stronger physically during the summer, got stronger mentally, learned a lot from the coaching side of things.”
The 6′ guard was forced to watch his team from the sidelines for the remainder of the year and took to learning the game with head coach Aki Thomas and the staff.
“Mentally, I was able to understand it from the coaches side of things,” Elliott said. “Being able to pick up on the little things, the hard cuts, the less movement in basketball, trying to make the smarter plays. I was always in the film room with the coaches and stuff, so it just helped a lot with the little things.”
Elliott is fully healed from the torn labrum in his shoulder and he is motivated to prove that he belongs amongst the league’s best players. Just a season ago he was entering an optimistic second year after leading his team with 15 ppg, 3.6 apg and broke the school’s scoring record for a freshman. Over the summer the guard has worked on his ability to drive to the left and finish with his left hand, focusing on improving the shoulder that he hurt.
“All the guys know what I’m capable of and what I’m capable of doing, just getting back to getting my shoulder healthy enough to play,” Elliott said. “I’m back to full strength and I feel actually better than I have before. I’m just anxious and ready.”
He saw one preseason magazine picked him for the second team in the conference, but picked their team last. That, he said, will add fuel to his fire to prove the doubters wrong.
“We’re all back and we’re all ready to go and trying to prove everybody wrong,” Elliott said. “I just can’t wait.”
For the first time he will be able to play an extended period with his roommate, senior Cody Joyce, who is the team’s returning scorer (13.4 ppg) and rebounder (5.8 rpg). Elliott said he was happy to see Joyce, who received a waiver after transferring from Houston Baptist, have success in his first season with the Retrievers. The two roommates should prove to be a difficult combination to defend for conference opponents.
“He’s just been right next to me in my ear trying to make me the best player I can be,” Elliott said. “Cody has helped me out a lot.”
The redshirt sophomore, after receiving a medical redshirt last season, can’t wait for his team’s season opener on Nov. 13 at Wake Forest. He will turn 20 on the day of their season opener.
“I’m just ready to get there,” Elliott said of playing a game on his birthday that they will look to upset the ACC program. “That will be my birthday gift.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.