It hasn't been slam dunk for Flemings
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Roderick Flemings is fast. Just not as fast as a speeding bullet.
He is strong. Just not more powerful than a locomotive.
He can jump. Just not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
As good as Flemings has been for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team, he will never be the Superman some expected him to be.
"I hear what the people are saying," Flemings said. "You have to listen to it, but I try not to let it get to me. I still say coming to Hawai'i was the best decision for me, and it's not over yet."
Flemings is in the stretch run of his senior season with the Rainbow Warriors.
The 6-foot-7 forward has eight regular-season games remaining, including tomorrow's Western Athletic Conference game against Fresno State at the Stan Sheriff Center.
By the time his career is completed, the statistics will show that he was one of the best two-year players in UH basketball history.
Flemings is on pace to score more than 900 points in his two seasons as a 'Bow. The list of players who have surpassed 900 points as two-year UH players is an impressive one: Tom Henderson, Anthony Carter, Reggie Cross, Michael Kuebler, Trevor Ruffin, Al Davis, Terry Houston and Matt Lojeski.
"I'm not satisfied with what I've done so far," Flemings said. "I can do a lot more than what I've been showing."
Therein lies the problem.
Flemings may be one of the most enigmatic players in Hawai'i basketball history.
Has there ever been a more spectacular in-game dunker to wear a Hawai'i uniform?
His one-handed, reach-behind-the-head, alley-oop slam against New Mexico State last month is still creating a buzz. In the middle of last week's 66-60 loss at Nevada, one of the Wolf Pack players came up to Flemings and told him: "I thought your knee was hurting. I saw your dunk against New Mexico (State). Didn't look hurt to me."
But for the insatiable, those dunks have been too few and far between.
For all his physical talent, Flemings has been called inconsistent and indifferent on various blogs and message boards.
"I think he felt like he had to live up to all those expectations," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "I think sometimes he tried to do a little too much and as a result, he didn't look good. But in our eyes, he's done everything we've asked of him, and that's been a lot."
Flemings is averaging 15.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season. Good, but not exactly All-America numbers — not even first-team All-WAC numbers, really. However, he has put up those statistics while playing hurt, out of position, and with a relative lack of firepower around him.
In his two seasons, Flemings has played through nagging injuries to his ankle, knee and hamstring. There was also the death of his grandfather last season.
"That's been real tough to deal with because I never really had any injuries my whole career until I got here," he said.
What's more, Flemings has played every position except point guard during his stint with the 'Bows ... and has attracted double-teams from opponents at every spot.
"In the college game, a lot of guys are asked to move around and play different positions," Nash said. "Rod is a guy who can play a lot of positions because he's so physically gifted."
Those closest to Flemings say the constant shuffling of positions and the often-stagnant Hawai'i offense have limited his statistics.
Flemings' mother, Kim Arthur, said: "Roderick is doing everything he can to help the team. But he's used to the style of play where he can run up and down the court. Hawai'i has this relaxed offense, and it's so frustrating for me to watch because it's the first time that Roderick is playing at a slow pace. You hear people saying he's not all that. He is all that. You'll see it next year."
It's no secret that Flemings wants to play in the NBA. He briefly flirted with the idea of declaring for early entry into the NBA Draft last year.
A year ago, his name was appearing on Internet mock drafts as a second-round pick for the 2010 NBA Draft. Now, he is not even listed among the top seniors.
Aran Smith, president of the nbadraft.net Web site, said: "I'd have to say I'm a little surprised he didn't have a better senior year. We projected him as a draft pick before the season, but his development hasn't been as good as expected. I think he's a long shot to get drafted at this point."
One NBA scout — who spoke specifically about Flemings on the condition of anonymity — said Flemings is like a race car without the proper engine.
"He's got the NBA specs — 6-7, strong, high-flyer," the scout said. "But the performance just has not been consistent enough. He does have that athleticism, though, so he might be one of those guys who may have to play elsewhere and develop a little more before he tries the NBA."
Flemings, 23, is fine with that.
"If I have to go a different route, I'll go a different route," he said. "I'm not going to give up. I feel like God blessed me with the ability to play basketball, so that's what I want to do."
Kim Arthur said her son started playing basketball in the parks of Dallas, Texas, at age 8 and never stopped. By the time he was 13, he was already being invited to elite-level summer camps.
In the summer of 2004, he was one of 100 high school players invited to the NBA Players Association Camp at Virginia. Flemings finished as the leading scorer among all the players at that camp.
Some of the guys he out-scored included current NBA players Greg Oden, Monta Ellis, O.J. Mayo, Brandon Rush and C.J. Miles.
As a result, Flemings became one of the most coveted recruits in the country.
A circuitous route took him from Oklahoma State to Weatherford junior college in Texas. He then chose the 'Bows over Kentucky in a highly publicized recruiting battle.
"How often does Hawai'i beat out Kentucky?" said Hawai'i assistant coach Jackson Wheeler, who recruited Flemings. "Now, has he been everything people thought he would be? No, but I don't know if anybody could have lived up to that. He's been a good, solid player and he brought a lot of attention to our program just by being here. That should count for something."
It will also count for something that Flemings is on pace to graduate in May with a degree in sports management.
That, according to his mother, will be his greatest accomplishment in Hawai'i.
"For our family, that's like President Obama," Kim Arthur said. "We all know what he can do with basketball and he's not done. But this was his chance to be the first in our family to get a college degree and he did it."