Over the years, a lot of basketball talent has come out of Saginaw, Michigan — high school sophomore Ty Rodgers has ties to more than one of the most recent NBA success stories. Rodgers, a wing in the high school class of 2022, is a cousin of current Indiana Pacer, Brian “Tugs” Bowen II. His uncle, Jason Richardson, starred at Michigan State and went on to become one of the NBA’s most consistent scorers between 2000 to 2010. The athletic genes don’t end there — his brother, Will, is an NFL prospect playing defensive lineman for Washington State. Claiming that this family has incredible athletic pedigree would be an understatement.
Now pushing six-foot-seven, Rodgers has grown over the past year and is probably still not done. Throughout the quarantine, he has been working out with a current NBA player in his cousin, Bowen II. He is down to earth, though has a fire and huge expectations of himself when it comes to basketball: already an All-State player in Michigan, himself, Rodgers is also chasing the coveted Gatorade Player of the Year award — a major challenge in itself, but an extra tall task considering fellow 2022 prospect Emoni Bates (2020 National Gatorade Player of the Year) is about 100 miles down the road in Ypsilanti. Nevertheless, the required drive, passion, work ethic, and humility was evident in Rodgers throughout his interview with Pro Insight.
Rodgers is very strong, especially factoring in that he’s only recently turned 16. He has a knack for slashing, can finish above the rim and shows some ability to create off of the dribble. With continued skill development, he should be looking at getting offers from Michigan’s highest institutions. He has been recently offered by Ohio State and Marquette, with interest reaching the national level.
In this interview, Rodgers talks about his training process, his background in several other sports, his outlook on the G-League developmental program, his experience with USA Basketball, managing expectations in the social media era, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Ty Rodgers, from Saginaw, Michigan:
Pro Insight: Talk a little about your background.
Ty Rodgers: Yeah, I’m from Saginaw, Michigan. I have two siblings, a younger sister, she’s 10 [years old], she plays a little bit of soccer and basketball. Then I have an older brother, he’s 21 [years old], he goes to Washington State, he plays defensive end. My parents both work for the state of Michigan: one is a probation officer [father] and one works for Children’s Protective Services [mother], so yeah, that’s a little bit about my family.
PI: How was your brother's season at Washington State? Is he a future NFL prospect?
TR: Yeah he had a good season this year. He redshirted his freshman year so he’s going to be a senior this year, but I feel like next year he has a pretty good shot at getting drafted. I think he might have led his team in tackles this year, so he had a good year for sure.
PI: Do you play any other sports? Have you played any other sports in the past?
TR: Yeah, well I just play basketball now, but in the past I played football. I was pretty good at football, it was kind of boring to me though, like practice and stuff like that so I let it go. I still run track a little bit, more just for working out and stuff...I work out with the track team, I don’t compete in events, but I work out with the team, I’ve been doing that for a while. I used to be on the swim team, I stopped doing that my freshman year because it was interfering with basketball season, but yeah I still do that in the off-season to help me stay in shape. I played soccer all the way up until 5th grade, then I stopped playing soccer. I played baseball for a couple years when I was younger, but it was just kind of boring, so basketball has always been that thing for me.
PI: What positions did you play and what events did you do?
TR: So for football I was pretty much all over the field, I played WR, RB, DE, and a little bit of TE. In track I ran the 400m, I was a 400m runner. For swimming I would do the 100m free-style, that was my thing, the 100m free-style. In the 400m, my fastest time was like 55 seconds...I was alright, I was pretty fast.
PI: When did you transition over to full-time basketball?
TR: Yeah, starting freshman year I transitioned over to all basketball to just focus on my craft.
PI: What do you love most about the game of basketball?
TR: It definitely just isolates me from everything else that’s going on...there can be stuff going on at home or in the world, but once I step on the court everything leaves my mind and I’m strictly focusing on the game of basketball. So it’s just really unique to me and I love the game.
PI: For those who aren’t super familiar with your game, what are some of your greatest strengths?
TR: I would say my biggest strength is my versatility, I do it all: pass, score, play defense. I feel like defense is one of the biggest things because you don’t really see that from a lot of guys these days. So yeah, definitely my versatility, just being able to do everything.
PI: What about some things you still need to work on?
TR: Well I’m still trying to improve everything about my game. I feel like you can’t really just focus on one area I feel like you need to improve everything, because if you just focus on one area then I feel like you’ll start lacking in a different area. So really just everything, my jump shot, handles, on-ball defense, help-side defense, everything.
PI: What would you say is most underrated about your game? In other words, what do you think you don’t receive enough credit for?
TR: I would probably say my ability to handle the ball. I feel like I’m going to get straight to the point — I’m not going to waste all of my energy doing moves, I’m going to get right to the bucket. I feel like I can really handle the ball and most people don’t really realize that.
PI: With things shut down due to COVID-19, what are you doing to stay ready?
TR: Luckily for me, my older cousin is Brian Bowen — he plays for the Indiana Pacers — he’s in town because he’s from Saginaw, too. He has a key to a little church gym so I’ve been working out with him. So I feel like I’m ready if the game were to come, if we were to play today. I’ve been working out a lot every day, just getting up a lot of shots with him and doing a lot of pro workouts...so yeah, definitely preparing me.
PI: What’s it been like working out with Brian Bowen? How has that helped your confidence of making the NBA in the future?
TR: Yeah it’s definitely crazy seeing the different types of workouts the pros do — like every day it’s a different workout and just working on different skills. It’s just crazy to see how consistent he is and how consistent pros are, so it’s just showing me that if I want to be a pro then that’s how I have to be — just really consistent and keep improving.
PI: Which aspects of your game do you spend the majority of your time working on?
TR: I would probably say getting my shot up off the dribble, that’s one of the biggest things I’ve been working on with my cousin Brian [Bowen]...is learning how to get my shot off against any type of defender — like tall or short defenders, just multiple ways to get my shot off. He said at the next level that’s the main thing you have to be able to do.
PI: Out of all the guys you matched up with this year, who was the toughest?
TR: I would say one of the toughest guys I’ve played against is probably Jonathan Kuminga. He’s tough, man...he’s definitely one of the best in his class, just all-around, he can do everything: he can post you up, hit the 3, he’s just so versatile, he plays tough defense...yeah he’s probably one of the best players I’ve played against.
PI: Two years down, two to go. What are your main goals you want to accomplish before your high school career is over?
TR: I want to win a state championship for sure, that’s my biggest thing. I thought this year was going to be our year, but it unfortunately came to an end so next year I’m looking forward to it definitely. Then I want to win Gatorade Player of the Year for sure...Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year. Those are probably my two next goals that I want to accomplish.
PI: Do you feel like you accomplished what you wanted to this season?
TR: I feel like my personal goals were good...I mean I was All-State and stuff so that was good, but I feel like I could have done more for sure. Our season got canceled around the second round of playoffs — we won the first round and started to go into the second round and then this stuff happened, so it’s just tragic.
PI: What are your short and long term goals as a basketball player?
TR: I would say some of my short term goals are Gatorade Player of the Year, win a state championship, go to college for free. I want to get my degree, but I want to go to the league and then come back and get my degree. Long term goal is to get to the NBA and stay in the NBA — like I want to produce in the NBA because there’s a lot of guys who get to the NBA and they fall off, so I want to get to the NBA and stay in the NBA for as long as I can. I want to go back to college and get my degree in either sports management or business...so yeah those are definitely some of my long term goals.
PI: Would you consider going straight to the G-League from high school?
TR: Definitely that’s something I would consider, especially if the NCAA doesn’t allow players to make money off their name. So yeah that’s big, the G-League thing is big and I feel like over the next year or two you’re going to see a lot more guys doing it.
PI: You mentioned majoring in sports management or business...what type of career would you look to pursue after basketball?
TR: I really want to open up a chain of businesses and stuff — I want to open up a lot of shoe stores and like clothing stores because that’s stuff I’m into off the court, so that would be my thing. Then basketball, I would like to open up some community centers in my city. I’m from Saginaw and there’s not many here so I just want to give kids the opportunity to shoot and grow up to play basketball and stuff.
PI: You mentioned you want to be in the NBA for a long time — what do you think it takes to stick in the league?
TR: I mean hard work...you got to know how to sacrifice a lot of stuff...like right now you have to sacrifice going to parties and hanging with friends, like you got to be grinding. You have to stay humble at the same time. There have been a lot of people being top of their class going into college and stuff and you just see them fall off because their head is too big. So definitely just staying humble, staying on my grind, and trusting the process.
PI: Why do you wear #23? Is there a story behind that?
TR: A little bit, but not really...my uncle is Jason Richardson and he wears that so I kind of like went out to him on the number.
PI: How was your experience with USA Basketball? How has it helped propel your game?
TR: It’s crazy man, just crazy work — we probably worked like five or six hours of the day so the work is crazy, but it’s good...it prepares you for what you’re going to see at the next level. Then they do in-class sessions where they’re breaking down the game and what’s important like film, eating healthy, and making sure your body is good, so it’s definitely something that I took with me and I’ve been using.
PI: How have you seen it translate on the court with your high school team?
TR: The main thing I’ve been working on is just bettering my diet and I’ve definitely been having way more energy just on and off the court and it just helps with your game, man. You just play way more explosive and everything, it’s amazing.
PI: You have some time to figure it out, but down the line as you prepare to make your college decision, what are some of the top things you’re looking for in a school?
TR: Definitely just coaches that can help me be a better player and a better person, and just coaches that can help me and have experience being in the NBA and stuff. Somebody who can help me get to where I want to be and that’s the NBA, but not just go to the NBA, but produce in the NBA. So that has to be the main thing when it comes down to that decision. I definitely want a family atmosphere, I want to feel at home...but yeah, mainly just a coach that can help me get to where I want to be.
PI: How many scholarships do you have and how much interest have you started generating?
TR: Right now I only have Rhode Island and Houston, so I only have two right now, but that should pick up this summer. I’ve had a lot of interest from Ohio State, Louisville, Marquette shows a lot of interest, Missouri, Wake Forest, Creighton, Dayton, and the list kind of goes on with the interest.
Note: Rodgers has recently picked up offers from Ohio State and Marquette in the short time since this interview was conducted.
PI: When did you get your first scholarship offer and what was that feeling like?
TR: Rhode Island offered me first — they offered me last year at the Peach Jam in the summer. So yeah, around that tournament they offered me, well they offered me when I was still there, like after a game. It was just crazy man, just an amazing feeling and I had the biggest smile on my face. It just makes you feel good, especially just taking a lot of stress off your parents’ shoulders just knowing you have scholarships to attend college for free...so yeah it’s definitely an amazing feeling.
PI: How did that change your approach to the game?
TR: It definitely gave me a big confidence boost because I mean Rhode Island is a pretty big D-1, so I’m like if they can offer me then I know I can get more bigger D-1 offers. I just got to keep working hard and it definitely pushed me to work harder.
PI: Do you have a dream school?
TR: I’ve never really had a dream school. My ultimate goal has just been get to the league, so not really...I’ve never had a dream school.
PI: Do you watch more college or NBA basketball? What are you looking for and what are your biggest takeaways when you watch?
TR: Right now I’ve been watching way more college basketball because that’s what I have to prepare for, unless they change the rule. I’ve been watching a lot of college basketball, especially the teams that have interest or have offered me, just seeing their style of play and how they let their players [play], like how loose they let them go and stuff like that...so that’s something I’ve been watching out for.
PI: College or pro, current or former player – do you model your game after anyone?
TR: I wouldn’t say one particular person, but in the league I try to take parts of LeBron, Kawhi, Westbrook, Harden — I try to take a little bit of everything from guys and just add it to my bag.
PI: What are some of the player comparisons people give you? Do you think they’re fair?
TR: A lot of people have been saying Jayson Tatum and I can see it a little bit — yeah definitely.
PI: You’re listed at 6’4 or 6’5, online...is that accurate?
TR: Yeah that hasn’t been updated in so long — I’m a good 6’6 almost 6’7 now and I weigh 195 pounds.
PI: Is that weight natural or have you been hitting the weights?
TR: No not really, it’s really just natural...my dad and brother have big builds and I really don’t lift that often so it’s kind of natural.
PI: Which would you say you rely on more, your natural talent or your work ethic?
TR: Definitely my work ethic because natural talent and ability can only take you so far. So I feel like, in eighth grade I was playing up on 15U on EYBL with The Family so that definitely got me prepared and helped me bring my work ethic up more, seeing how at the next level guys are getting stronger, faster, and better. So you can’t rely on just talent and ability.
PI: What type of system best fits your playing style?
TR: I feel like I can almost play in any type of system just because of how versatile I am. So I was never really picky about what type of system...but yeah I’m just a player, it doesn’t really matter.
PI: Which position do you view yourself as?
TR: Small forward, but I’ve been playing a lot of guard during high school. I’ve talked to a lot of colleges and guard might be my position.
PI: Please explain what Ty Rodgers brings to a team, regardless of the situation – name some things on the court and some things off the court.
TR: Definitely always a player who is just funny and uplifts his teammates. Sometimes I can get on my teammates, but at the end of the day I’m still going to lift them up — like I might tell them like, “hey that was a bad shot” or something, but then I might tell them, “hey it’s good, let’s get it back on defense” or something like that. So I’m definitely a player who is going to lift his teammates up and make some jokes off the court. I’m a funny guy, always dancing and stuff like that. Just a good personality, something [I notice] is a lot of people want to play with me so I feel like that’s a good thing.
PI: What do you find yourself doing most outside of basketball while quarantined?
TR: Right now besides working out I would say, I watch a lot of YouTube, I’ve been studying guys’ games and stuff like that. But besides basketball stuff, probably just looking up different sneakers, honestly. I’m a sneakerhead so that’s something else I kind of do outside of basketball.
PI: What’s your collection like?
TR: I have a pretty big collection, man...probably close to 200 pairs of shoes. My favorite shoes are the Jordan 1’s — I probably have about 20 pairs of those — they’re my favorite shoes. I like the retro black and red.
PI: What’s your biggest passion or hobby outside of basketball?
TR: I would definitely say fashion that’s something outside of basketball that’s my biggest passion. Mainly just fashion, man. I don’t really get into video games that much, maybe if my cousin comes over I’ll play with him, but it’s not really something that I really do on a daily basis. So really just fashion. I’m always trying to figure out new styles like that and trying on a lot of clothes, so I mean that’s probably my second passion.
PI: What Netflix shows are you burning through these days?
TR: Hmm, I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix, man...of course All-American...I finished that a while ago. I recently just watched Outer Banks, I finished that one. I watched Riverdale, that’s something I watch. I’ve just been watching all that on Netflix.
PI: What would you say are the four websites you visit the most?
TR: YouTube for sure. StockX, that’s where I sneaker shop at. Probably Nike.com, I get a lot of my tracksuits from there. Probably like clothing sites like PacSun — stuff like that.
PI: What has been a defining moment or story in your life?
TR: I would probably say my freshman year I didn’t make the All-State team. I was honorable mention, but I know I could have been All-State. The state of Michigan had some good guys my freshman year, but I still feel like I fell short of it. It definitely made me work harder and push myself more so that I would never have that feeling again.
PI: Why has that stuck with you and what did you learn from it?
TR: Definitely just remembering that feeling, it wasn’t a good feeling that I had. So definitely just not wanting to have that feeling again so just working hard every day and pushing myself to be better.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
TR: I would probably say the best advice is to just stay humble...like you see so many guys, I don’t know if you’ve seen the Lenny Cooke story or not, but he was like top of his class, he was in LeBron’s class. He was the number-one player in the country and his head got too big and he just fell off — he tried to go straight from high school to the NBA and it just didn’t work. He started hanging around the wrong people and stuff and his head was just too big. Now I don’t know where he’s at, but yeah, basically being humble because all this stuff that I have right now it can be gone just like that.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
TR: Athletic. Outgoing. Funny. Probably just kind for the last one, because I’m just a good guy to be friends with or something like that. I’m always there for anybody who needs to talk, or anything. A lot of times you see all these athletes and they’re just, like they think they’re the stuff so they think they can’t talk to people they feel like are below them. I’m open to talk to anybody and everybody so that’s a good feature about me.
PI: What is your leadership style? What do you think makes a good leader or role model?
TR: Definitely somebody that leads the way and I feel like that’s what I do...by leading the way if you see one of your guys doing something wrong you have to get on them, but then you have to uplift them at the same time. So definitely that’s my biggest thing and I feel like that’s why a lot of younger guys look up to me.
PI: Does that demeanor come naturally or has it been something you’ve had to work for?
TR: I don’t know if you know this team, but Arthur Hill High School, they had my cousin Brian Bowen, Eric Davis, and some other guys. I was the ball boy for that team growing up since like second grade. So I grew up watching them, watching Eric and Brian, and how good of leaders they were. Because obviously they were the best on their team, but they would just uplift their players and stuff like that and make sure they were always working hard and giving 100%. So yeah, that’s definitely one of the main things where I got my leadership from.
PI: Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or extrovert?
TR: I mean it depends what it is because sometimes I do like to stay to myself and just have my space, but I can be social at times. I can be a little bit of both honestly, I always go out and show love — I support people that are close to me always, like sporting events and stuff like that. So I’m not anti-social or anything. I'm always going to socialize and stuff like that.
PI: What’s your learning style? From watching others or from doing it?
TR: I kind of learn both ways. I pick up stuff fast, so I can see something and I’ll just play through it in my head and I can get out there and do it, so that’s definitely probably my learning style.
PI: Who would you say has influenced your life the most up to this point? Why?
TR: Probably my older cousin Brian Bowen honestly...just with all the stuff he’s been through at Louisville, just all the stuff he’s been through, and he’s still strong. He’s pushing through it and is still working super hard to get to the league...to get that first contract in the league, so yeah definitely him.
PI: Talk about your greatest all-time memory on the court
TR: One of my favorite memories was from this year when Kobe died and we did the tribute to him...we came out and wore shirts and I had found these Kobes in my shoe collection that I honestly forgot I had. I wore them and they were super sick and I think I had like 28 [points] in them, we got a W, but it was just a good feeling, we did a little tribute to him. So yeah that was probably one of the best moments.
PI: Tell us something about yourself that most people have no idea about.
TR: That’s a tough one, I would probably say like how nice of a person I am. I feel like some people will see one of my basketball videos or something and they’ll see me getting in someone’s face or something and they’ll take that for how I am as a person...but I’m like one of the humblest people in the world. So definitely just how good of a person I am. I’m easy to talk to, I’m humble, so yeah I feel like that’s something most people don’t know about me.
PI: How do you manage pressure or expectations in the social media era?
TR: I mean it’s crazy because everybody expects you to always be great, honestly. So if you have a bad game or something and you lose it’s your fault and if you win that’s when you get congratulated and stuff. Sometimes it’s good I guess and sometimes it’s tough like with you being the big man on campus...it’s something that you didn’t ask for, but that’s just what basketball comes with, especially when you’re one of the better players...the kids like you and stuff like that. Pressure used to be a thing for me when I was younger — I used to try to play for the cameras and stuff like that, but as I’ve gotten older and matured it doesn’t really get to me anymore, I just play my game.
PI: What’s a day in the life look like for you?
TR: For me it’s always just going down to a little neighborhood park in my area, it’s always cool, usually there’s not many people so I’ll go down there to get my mind off stuff. At school just walking down the hallway everybody saying what’s up to you, smiling and stuff, everybody is trying to take a video, pictures and stuff. So yeah, sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, but I mean it’s a part of the process...I can’t be disrespectful or anything, so yeah.
PI: Describe your life 10 years from now.
TR: Of course I want to be in the league, one of the best in the league, definitely...by then, I’ll be around 25 or 26 [years old] so I want to have some rec centers in my city. Just get that going for the younger kids, I just want something that I really didn’t have...like I have access to gyms and stuff, but it’s just because of my name and stuff so I want them to have access to a gym anytime. So that’s definitely one of the things I want to have by then. And just make sure my family is taken care of.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
TR: Probably just my personality man — always free to talk to anybody. Definitely just be like that guy...I know you’re probably watching The Last Dance with Michael Jordan and stuff, but it’s legendary...his whole career was legendary. I just want to be remembered as legendary. I don’t want anybody to have any bad experiences with me and I just want to leave off on a positive note with everybody.
Watch the full interview with Ty, here