By Tim Lima
---- — BYFIELD — Ellsworth Rogers serves several roles for the Triton Vikings basketball team: the vocal leader and captain, an interior presence in the paint, a practice tone-setter and a not-so-little “secret.”
“Since I have met him, he has always had a way about him,” head coach David Clay said.
What sets Rogers apart from your typical high school basketball player is the unique combination of these roles he possesses and the way in which he is able to serve them all simultaneously.
Rogers’ leadership qualities and his work ethic are just two aspects of his makeup that allow him to be a valuable commodity in-season and off-season, in practices and games.
“I’m just vocal with everyone,” Rogers said. “If they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, I’ll call them out on it. At the same time, if they’re doing something right, I’ll give them credit.”
Rogers undoubtedly leads directly, but it is his indirect leadership that is perhaps most valuable. Over time, his work ethic has become contagious and has set the bar at a level that Clay finds satisfying.
“He is a big vocal leader for our team and in the off-season he is very instrumental for us by getting kids to events and to morning workouts,” Clay said. “In the off-season, he lifts four or five days a week.”
A football player for Triton as well, Rogers benefits from strict weight training regimens that have helped him both on the gridiron and the hardwood.
“At the summer workouts for football, we would do a lot of sled stuff and pulling tires that helped me explode more and be more balanced,” Rogers said. “I was at Latitude’s Gym in Salisbury in the morning probably three days a week over the summer.”
While involved in other sports, Rogers remains dedicated to bettering his craft in basketball.
“Basketball-wise he plays in two to four games every weekend, while taking advantage of open gyms,” Clay said. “He really doesn’t miss a thing. He’s there, and if he’s not, it’s because he’s working. In practice he raises the standard because he works so hard that the other kids want to work better and harder.”
Rogers stands at 6-foot-4 and has the build and strength of an offensive tackle. This isn’t necessarily something rare; for even the NBA teams are quick to draft monster-sized talent to dominate the paint — see Kendrick Perkins or Glen “Big Baby” Davis for example.
What you seldom see are basketball players that size who have the ability — or the permission — to take a shot from beyond the arc. It’s that rarity that makes Rogers’ touch on his shooting from downtown a “little secret.”
“It’s our little secret, because he’s actually a great 3-point shooter,” Clay said. “This spring he was our leading 3-point shooter. He has great touch. As a sophomore he told me he can shoot the three and I didn’t believe him, but in practice he knocked them down and I started giving him the green light. He likes to do stuff silently and without people knowing, but he puts a lot of work into that shot.”
While dominating the paint is how Rogers finds most of his points, the outside shooting has helped to boost his points-per-game average to 11.3, just a half-point off the team lead.
“I just learned I was able to shoot last year,” Rogers said. “I started working on it all off-season and now I work on it all practice. When we do shooting, that’s all I do.”
Rogers also is tied for the lead in rebounds per game at 9.6. To this point, he is less than half a rebound per game away from averaging a double-double for the Vikings.
Rogers is currently in the midst of his first full varsity basketball season. He received playing time last year when Triton’s center missed time with a broken hand.
While very inexperienced at the varsity level, Clay knew immediately that Rogers had special talent when he filled the void seamlessly. Rogers is the only junior on the Vikings with varsity experience, but with the growth Triton has seen already from its team this year, it’s often difficult not to think about what might be on the horizon next season.
“It’s hard not to look forward to next year, but I have tried to stay focused on this year and make this team as special as possible,” Rogers said. “I think we are in a good spot now and doing a lot of learning and getting better as we go.”
Rogers and the Vikings sit at 3-3 after beginning the season 0-2 and will travel to Lynnfield tonight.
“I speak very highly of him because he’s one of those guys that you wish you had 15 of on your team,” Clay said.
“But I’m lucky. I do have 15 of him. All of our guys are great and work very hard.”