As the top shot blocker in the NCAC, Reuel Rogers is all about denying opportunities
Reuel Rogers is ranked as one of the NCAC’s best rebounders and has one of its top five in shooting percentage. However, it is his 3.0 blocks per game that really makes him stand out Photo by Sara Blake/OWU
If there’s anyone who can sympathize with what the Kenyon College mens basketball team went through in a 78-60 season-opening loss to Ohio Wesleyan University on Nov. 20, it is Robby Rinehart, a post for the Battling Bishops.    Every time the Lords seemed to have a clear path to the basket, they found themselves running into the palm of Bishops senior post Reuel Rogers. The 6-foot-7 post blocked a school-record nine shots, breaking his old Ohio Wesleyan record of eight set in a 67-64 win over Denison last year.   “There are times (in practice) when you think you’re going to get off a shot. He’s so long and so quick. He can be far away from you and (suddenly) be right there,” says Rinehart whose team improved to 17-4 overall after defeating Kenyon 68-65 on Feb. 8. “I’ve gone against him in practice for three years now, so I’m kind of used to it.”   “(The Kenyon game) was early in the season and they didn’t know what to expect from me,” Rogers adds. “They tried to drive it down the lane and I was able to disrupt it.”  Kenyon found out what other teams are quickly discovering – Reuel Rogers is a devastating shot blocker. The Bexley High School graduate was ranked first in the North Coast Athletic Conference and 12th in the NCAA Division III national rankings in blocked shots with 62 as of Feb. 8.   Rogers became Ohio Wesleyan’s all-time career leader in blocked shots before the start of this season. He also holds the team record in blocked shots in a season (82 last year) and in a game (the nine against Kenyon).    However the Bishops might need a long run in the postseason for Rogers (206 career blocks) to catch Wooster’s Mike Trimmer (the conference’s all-time leader with 257 from 1985 to 1989).   Rogers has more in his skill set than shot blocking. He was averaging 12.5 points a game before Ohio Wesleyan faced Wabash College on Feb. 12. He was ranked third in the NCAC with 8.4 rebounds and fifth in shooting percentage (51.2).   The post was named the conference’s Player of the Week on Feb. 3 after having 21 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots in a 62-60 win over fifth-ranked Wooster on Jan. 29 and had eight points, seven rebounds, and four blocked shots in an 88-61 win over Hiram on Feb. 1.   However Rinehart says it electrifies the team when Rogers swats one away.  “Everyone on the bench loves it and it really gets the crowd going,” Rinehart says. “If he can get more than one block on a possession, it can swing momentum in our favor.”   Rogers’ frame helps him out but there’s a lot more to his shot blocking ability than just his height. Most of his blocks don’t come against the player he’s guarding. When a guard tries to come down the lane to the hoop, Rogers steps over and whacks his shot away.  “First of all, Reuel is built to be a good shot blocker as he is tall and long,” Bishops coach Mike DeWitt says. “But what makes him special is his ability to anticipate what the offense is going to do and to time his shot blocking so he doesn't commit fouls.”   “I haven’t always been a good scorer but shot blocking has come so naturally to me,” Rogers says. “Once I started to develop more jumping ability, I started getting better at it.” A WORK IN PROGRESS   Rogers wasn’t always such a feared presence on the basketball court. Having never played organized basketball, he barely made the Bexley High School junior varsity team as a freshman and rode the bench most of that season. Opponents would stare at Rogers, then a 6-4 behemoth, at the end of the bench and wonder when he would be put into the game. “I was this tall, lanky kid who didn’t know how to play,” Rogers says. “I was just happy to be on the team. I’ve always been a very good judge of my talent. I knew the people who were playing in front of me were much better than I was.”   Rogers may have started his high school career on the bench, but Lions coach Dave Gustin knew he wasn’t going to stay there.  “He had his head down a couple of times when he was still trying to develop his game but he never quit,” Gustin says. “His work ethic is second to none.”   “One thing coach Gustin used to always say was ‘work hard when no one is watching.’ That’s when you get the most improvement,” Rogers says. “That was something I really took to heart.” Rogers didn’t play on the Lions varsity until his junior year. Once he cracked the lineup, Rogers averaged 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds and was honorable mention all-Mid State League as a junior.   By the time his senior year rolled around, Rogers made another big leap in his game, going from being a solid role player to “one of the better players we’ve had around here in Bexley in quite some time,” according to Gustin.  His senior season, Rogers nearly tripled his scoring average (18.3 points a game) and nearly doubled his rebounds average (11.35 a game). He made first-team all-league and all-district as the Lions finished 20-3 overall that year, losing to DeSales 52-49 in a Division II district final.    Rogers’ 2.5 blocks a game also attracted DeWitt’s interest.   “Reuel's lack of organized basketball experience certainly wasn't a concern,” DeWitt says. “In some ways it was a positive. We knew he had more potential to get better as his career progressed. You could definitely see that potential when we recruited him in high school.”   “He has continued to develop his game every year,” Gustin adds. “When I go to see him in college now, I just marvel (at how he’s developed as a player).”

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