A native of Niagara Falls, New York, Roddy Gayle, Jr. grew up playing basketball and watching local products like Johnny Flynn and Paul Harris make it big with the aspirations of being the next one to represent the Western New York community. As his physical profile matured along with his talents, he started to get noticed around the country as not only a player with D-1 abilities, but as someone who could also make money playing one day. At 6’4”+ and 170 pounds, Gayle does a good job taking advantage of his physical and athletic gifts at the guard spot. His high BBIQ, secondary playmaking, shooting ability, and eagerness to learn have already raised the ceiling for Wasatch Academy as a program.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Gayle Jr. discusses the basketball culture in Western New York, how he ended up at Wasatch Academy, his commitment to Ohio State, his off-court interests, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Roddy Gayle, Jr., from Niagara Falls, New York:
Pro Insight: Tell us about your background.
Roddy Gayle, Jr.: I’m from Niagara Falls, New York. It’s a small community — not too many people make it — not too many pros. Johnny Flynn and Paul Harris are the only ones that actually went out and made a name for themselves so I’m trying to be the next one up. I do a lot for my community and I want to establish Western New York as a place that has talent. I’m out here doing what I have to do for my family. I got a little brother who is on the way, I’m trying to get him into basketball a little bit. I’ve got an older sister and a little sister, and my dad has been with me the whole way. He put a ball in my hands when I was young at around age five or six and we haven’t stopped since. My mom, she’s the supporter, it doesn’t matter what I do in basketball or life, she’s always going to be there to hold me down and stay with me no matter my decision.
PI: Are there any other athletes in the family?
RG: My dad used to play, but he didn’t really get too far because he had a kid at a young age so he couldn’t really go out because he had to take care of my older sister who is in her mid-twenties now. I’m probably like the only athlete to go down this road of going away to different high schools, I’m all the way out in Utah right now. Going to colleges, playing at a D-1 college, I’m the first one [in my family] to go through this process. It’s amazing and it’s a dream come true.
PI: What’s the process of traveling and being away to play basketball been like for you and your family?
RG: It was very different to me because personally I’m a guy that likes to stay at home and be around family. It was difficult for me to leave places, going solo, staying with different people in different hotels and stuff like that. It was kinda hard for me at first, but now that I’ve done it so many times I’m used to it. Like the move over here to Utah, it was stressful and the decision was made in less than four days. Me and my dad sat down and we knew the decision had to be made instantly, like if I really wanted to play out here I had to make the decision quick — so my mom, dad, and I talked and we just got it all done.
PI: Why Wasatch Academy?
RG: Actually I remember Wasatch Academy being interested in me the last year and the past few years so it wasn’t like they were new. Then during December they contacted my dad and my close friend Ronnie and that’s when they got me on the phone with Coach Paul [Peterson] and we just started chopping it up. Coach Paul and Coach Thomas they told me they wanted me, they had a close connection with my dad and once they started talking [with my dad] then they came to me about it, my dad told me that he felt this was the best decision for me because of COVID-19 canceling our season up in New York. Like, his thoughts were that if I come over here [to Wasatch Academy] and make a name for myself then that would be the best thing for me, and I believe him.
PI: Were there any hesitations about coming to a small town like Mt. Pleasant to play at Wasatch Academy?
RG: My dad initially wanted me to be isolated, so he liked the whole idea of the academy being two hours away from Salt Lake City...like how our dorm room is you have to check in at a certain time. If I was going to be away from home, he wanted me to be safe and know I was safe. He liked how this Academy is isolated, like there’s not too many places to go or too many things to do. You got to focus on basketball and school, there’s not much else you can do here so you got to lock in. There’s no distractions, so I’m ready for it.
PI: Describe your game — what are your greatest strengths as a player?
RG: My biggest strengths are doing what the coaches want me to do. I feel like I’m a coach's pet, or whatever. Like whatever coach wants me to do I feel like I can do it — whether it’s facilitating and getting others involved, I can do it; if he wants me to score, I can do it; if he wants me to defend, I can do it. Me being so versatile I can do many different things, I’m not a one-trick pony. I feel like with my athleticism, my vision...I can shoot the ball, pass the ball….I feel like I can do anything.
PI: What are some areas of improvement?
RG: Definitely my ball-handling. I feel like that’s a weak spot in my game where I need to keep working on. I feel like once I can really handle the ball I’ll be alright.
PI: What about some underrated aspects?
RG: I feel like people don’t notice me as a passer...usually they just think I can score. Around here I got people that can finish the ball — if I kick it out for a 3 it’s going in...if I pass it down low then one of our bigs is going to dunk it. On this team alone I feel like they will help me be able to showcase my abilities.
PI: Why did you decide to reclassify to the 2022 class?
RG: I reclassified my 7th grade year. I didn’t want to graduate with the 18-20 year olds. I reclassified to stay in my age group, because I started school early. I reclassified because I wanted to graduate at an age where I’m developed as a man and going into college I’ll be ready for the open world.
PI: What's the basketball culture like in Niagara Falls?
RG: It’s very small, but it’s also a great community. Everybody is behind you and pushing you. It’s not even Niagara Falls — it’s the whole Western New York as one that pushes everyone no matter what it is...from basketball, rap, or football. It’s a great community to be a part of, but we don’t really have as much as the bigger cities, like right now we don’t have a YMCA. We have a Boys and Girls Club, but it’s not doing very good. So we don’t really have much for the younger youth to go and do, like there’s nothing for them right now so that’s what I hope to do. I want to help my community be better, I want to build different community places for kids. Like if they want to play basketball then they have a place to play or stuff like that. It’s a great community like I said, but we’re doing a bad job of pushing the kids to do what they want to do.
PI: At what point in your early career did you feel like you had a shot to play basketball at a high level?
RG: To be honest with you, growing up, like you couldn’t tell me this would be a reality. Like I never thought I would be going to a D-1 college, because I was kinda the shorter guy, I couldn’t really do much, I could only shoot. So growing up my body started to develop and then I started getting different chances. I’ve had plenty of chances I’m thankful for like playing AAU basketball, being exposed to different coaches and media outlets. Playing against some of the best people, and I’ve taken advantage of that. Once I saw where coaches were liking me I realized like I got a shot at this if I keep working and developing as a player I can really make it to the next level.
PI: How would you rank the top guards in the 2022 class?
RG: Man I don’t want to get into that [laughs].
PI: What made you choose Ohio State? What was most appealing about them?
RG: It was definitely appealing, I talked to Coach Holtmann, Coach Diebler, and the staff almost every day. So the connection that I had with the staff members were great. I felt like if I was going to leave my home then Ohio State was going to be my next home. It was great, and plus with COVID there was no telling when I was going to be able to get on campus and see the other schools I was looking at so I figured like ‘why wait?’ Why waste another coach's time when they could be putting their effort into another player? Like I knew where I wanted to go, so I just felt like why not seal the deal.
PI: What was their strategy to try to land you?
RG: They wanted me to be able to score, run the point and shooting guard spots a lot, to facilitate, run the floor, etc. They figured they could play faster with me on their team. They want to push the ball, play harder and more aggressive and that’s what I love to do so it was good for me.
PI: How much easier was it for you to commit to Ohio State because you had visited the campus vs. virtual visits with other schools?
RG: It was definitely [easier], because when I went there they gave me a tour. I went to all of the facilities, been in the locker room and stuff like that I knew what they had to offer. Me being at that game vs. Michigan, it was a rivalry game so like the crowd was crazy, everybody was amped and into it and I figured that’s the kind of atmosphere that I want to play in. The conference that they’re in is very tough, you’re going to get a great match up every night that you step on the floor. So like, that’s what I want to do and that will help me showcase my abilities.
PI: What system best fits your playing style?
RG: I like to play fast and if I’m not playing fast then I like to run around screens, play pick-and-roll, and get different looks where I can make a move and get a shot for myself or others.
PI: What do you bring to a team off the court?
RG: Usually I’m really quiet depending on who is around me...like if you have an energizer like Robbie [Armbrester] who is my roommate right now, he’s probably going to amp me up and I’ll talk more and do a lot more stuff because he’s bringing the energy. Like usually I’m kind of a quiet guy, but I would push you if I see you down or not doing what you’re supposed to do. If I see you down I’ll ask you if anything is wrong or I will encourage you to do better or try harder.
PI: Are there any players you model your game after?
RG: Usually I watch Paul George. I’m a big Paul George fan. I watch a lot of his clips, like how he operates off of on-ball screens, how he moves out of the low/high post. So I watch him, Devin Booker, and Jayson Tatum are the ones that I watch the most, like how great they are at creating separation and their shot making abilities.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
RG: I’m a big gamer. I’d rather stay at home and play a game then go out and party all night. For me it’s either 2K, Madden, or Call of Duty….give me a game system and a TV and I’m there all night...all day, too.
PI: If you were to give yourself a rating on 2K, how would you rate yourself?
RG: Right now I’d say I’m about a 90, but I’m still working. I’m not a finished product, yet.
PI: If you were to pursue a career other than basketball what would it be?
RG: Definitely something in business. I’ve taken a few accounting classes at my old high school so I feel like I know the basics of accounting and I want to further my business [skills]. I’m good at math, that’s one of my favorite subjects, so I want to invest my money and make a business for myself.
PI: If you had four words to describe yourself, what would those four words be?
RG: Chill. Respectful. Honest. Funny.