With the 2016 NBA Draft tonight (June 23), TSUTigers.com looks back at Carlos Rogers, who is the program’s most recent draft pick. He was taken in the first round (11th overall) in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics.
NASHVILLE --- In the weeks leading up to the 1994 NBA Draft, former Tennessee State men’s basketball star Carlos Rogers worked out for 22 of the league’s 27 teams.
“I guess for some reason coming from Tennessee State, they questioned me,” Rogers said. “I was doing a workout like every other day.”
After a number of strong workouts, Rogers figured he would be chosen by either the Miami Heat at No. 13 or the Golden State Warriors at No. 16. There was also a possibility of the Los Angeles Lakers selecting him 10th overall following an impressive workout with NBA legend Jerry West, who was an executive with the Lakers at the time.
On draft night, June 29, 1994, Rogers watched on TV at the lobby of a Marriott Hotel in his home state of Michigan as the draft went on in Indianapolis. It didn’t take long until the Seattle Supersonics traded up to the 11th overall pick to select Rogers. He became the fourth player in TSU history to go in the first round of the NBA Draft (Dick Barnett ’59, Ben Warley ’61, Monti Davis ’80).
Less than a month later, he was traded to the Golden State Warriors to begin his NBA career. The 6-11 post player, who earned Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year in 1993 and 1994 while playing at TSU, went on to enjoy an eight-year professional career with the Warriors, Raptors, Trail Blazers, Rockets and Pacers.
“It was a blur,” Rogers said about living out his dream of playing in the NBA. “It went that fast where it’s hard to grab a whole lot of instances to say this is how it was. By the time you get comfortable in the NBA, it’s like you’re almost on your way out. It’s a very short-lived career.”
The one game that stands out most to Rogers from his time in the NBA was on Jan. 18, 1996 when he was playing for the expansion Toronto Raptors.
“My biggest moment in the NBA was when we played against the championship Bulls,” Rogers recalled. “There were over 35,000 people at the SkyDome to come and watch Michael Jordan for the first time in Canada. As a new franchise, nobody expected us to win any games at all, but we beat some top-tier teams that season.”
Before his days in the NBA, Rogers began his collegiate career at Arkansas – Little Rock where he played as a freshman during the 1990-91 season. When one of the Trojans’ assistant coaches, Ricardo Patton, joined Frankie Allen’s staff at TSU, Rogers followed him after also considering Tennessee and Minnesota as other possible transfer destinations.
Without much previous knowledge of TSU, he began researching the school’s rich athletic tradition. It was the story of Wilma Rudolph, who overcame polio from an early age to win three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics, that Rogers remembers the most.
“What really made me fall in love with Tennessee State was Wilma Rudolph,” Rogers said. “Once I looked up Tennessee State, I saw her name and I remembered the Wilma Rudolph story. It made me want to be part of something like that.”
On the court, Rogers was a dominating force, leading TSU in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage in his two seasons with the Tigers. He led the Tigers to back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championships and the program’s only two Division I NCAA Tournament appearances.
TSU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams both won the 1994 OVC Tournament titles to earn berths into the NCAA Tournament.
“We won together, and we brought out something in each other,” Rogers said. “We pushed each other to be better. It was a great time to be part of TSU.”
At the time, the teams would travel together on the same bus to away games, giving added incentive to win on the road.
“If we lost, we weren’t allowed to talk to the girls,” Rogers joked. “That made us want to win even more.”
Rogers makes it back to TSU’s campus when possible and keeps track of the basketball team’s progress online. He was able to follow as TSU posted a 20-11 record in 2015-16, saying it made the alumni base proud. He hopes the strides Head Coach Dana Ford and the program made will help to continue to build toward another NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Coach Dana (Ford) has a lot of guys coming back this year and just the enthusiasm he has for winning is going to get his guys over the top,” Rogers said. “I can see a bright future for them soon. It’s not going to take them a long time to get them back to where we want them to be.”