McLean's Gordon Rogo: Player of the Year
The McLean basketball player stars on the court and in the classroom
McLean High School varsity basketball star Gordon Rogo listens to Hip-Hop, plays XBOX-360, and enjoys hanging out with friends. He also possesses a self-discipline and tenacity to achieve his goals not seen often in his peers.
Two McLean students shared the title of Liberty District co-player of the year: Rogo, 17, and David Adams of Langley High School. (Patch will profile Adams next Sunday.)
Highlander Rogo lifts weights up to five days a week, plays basketball four hours a day during the week and six hours a day on weekends to refine his skills. Even in the sweltering summer heat, Rogo plays ball until sundown.
“Coach Roller is always telling me sometimes I need to take time off because there’s times when my body is exhausted,” Rogo said. “My mentality is that when I’m not working, there is somebody else out there working to take my spot in the college program.”
When the Highlander’s season ends, he plays ball for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) during spring and summer. “I play AAU on a very good team and we’re ranked 17th in the nation right now,” Rogo said. “I play against kids who people regard as the best players in the country and Division one basketball is my dream.”
Family, Priorities & Grades
But before hitting the hardwood, he hits the books to maintain his 3.3 GPA at McLean. Khama and Lucie Rogo, his parents, take pride in their son and his three older sisters, believing a tight knit family is of great importance. Education comes first in the Rogo family and the philosophy has worked out well for everyone.
“My parents say ‘no grades, no basketball.’ So that is all I need to be focused,” Rogo said. “Academics always comes first and basketball is the incentive. If I were to get hurt, I would need a back up plan.”
A college education sits atop the priority list in the Rogo household and Gordon’s parents have led by example. His mother earned a PhD in entomology and consults for The Smithsonian and United Nations, while his father is Lead Health Specialist for The World Bank.
Rogo’s two oldest sisters, Tanya and Deborah received undergraduate degrees from The University of South Carolina. Tanya then studied medicine at Tulane and now practices pediatrics, while Deborah received her law degree at The University of Washington St. Louis.
His youngest sister Paula* graduated from The University of Virginia and is pursuing a graduate degree in journalism at Columbia University in New York.
Athletics also runs in the family. Rogo’s father played professional soccer for a club team in Kenya and his sister Paula was a field hockey star for McLean.
Lucie Rogo and her husband feel extremely proud of their children’s accomplishments and believe their son’s educational focus will pay off.
“As a family of academics, that’s what you believe in. There is no reason Gordon should be different,” Lucie Rogo said. “He really loves basketball and we support him and encourage him. But he must have a ‘Plan B’ if he can’t go into professional basketball. That’s why we really encourage academics.”
Family is highly valued by Rogo and he cherishes his relationships with his parents and sisters.
“My parents drive me everywhere for AAU. We have driven to West Virginia, South Carolina and flown to Florida, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles,” Rogo said. “They could be using this time for doing other stuff but they spend all this time and money on traveling with me for basketball. I couldn’t ask for a better family.”
Rogo sets long-term goals but makes short-term ones in order to climb to the top and play college ball. The granddaddy of all his goals is to play in the NBA. All the naysayers have spouted statistics, grim realities and the tiny percentage of players who make it to the professional level. Yet none of the rhetoric has phased or derailed Rogo from working towards his ultimate dream.
“The coaches always tell us the percentages of who will make it but I usually don’t let that get to me,” he said. “Whether it’s the NBA or playing overseas, I just want to play basketball professionally and am willing to work hard.”
Rogo reached his individual goal this past season when he earned Liberty District co-player of the year.
“If I didn’t get player of the year, I would not have had a good year individually and it would have been a failing year for me.”
The tenacious teen looks to improve on last year and become the Northern Regional player of the year in 2012. Rogo admires and patterns his game after Herndon’s Austin Hamilton, who won the award this year. “I watched [Hamilton] play in the Concorde District championship and it still amazes me at the big jump he made,” Rogo said. “He was a great player his junior year but as a senior he was unguardable.”
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Gordon grew up wanting to play basketball while his friends played soccer. His mother put up a hoop in the driveway for young Gordon and he began to practice at age three.
Rogo attended private school in Nairobi until age seven when he and his family moved to Virginia, where he would attend Kent Gardens Elementary School and immediately begin playing organized basketball and soccer. He would eventually quit soccer in seventh grade to focus solely on basketball.
Through childhood, his raw talent carried him but Rogo would learn the importance of working hard for something in the summer of 2006 when he failed to make the cut on a travel team.
“I was like, ‘Alright, I need to stop messing around and work harder at this sport because this is something I love and want to do,’” he said. “I used to go to Lewinsville Park every single day from 10 o’clock in the morning all the way to 9 p.m. non-stop, no rest, playing against guys older than me.”
Rogo made the travel team the next year and became the leading scorer, making all county.
Though his skills improved, he found he needed work on his jump shot and ball-handling skills and frustration hit as he strived to become the best but believed he was failing.
History is Rogo’s favorite subject and if Greek mythology has taught us anything, it’s that every hero needs a mentor to guide him along his journey. For Rogo, that mentor became McLean’s varsity head coach, Kevin Roller.
“[Rogo] started to understand how active he needed to be in the weight room and has really built his game from freshman year with obvious progression. He’s in the gym and he puts in the time,” Roller said. “He is a very solid student and if he keeps working in both the classroom and on the court, it’s going to offer him some very challenging and exciting opportunities.”
Roller taught Rogo strategy and nuances of the game he never understood before. He showed him how to read defenders, screens, and impressed the importance of “putting in the time.” Rogo says his coach helped add weapons to his arsenal that were previously missing.
“Coach Roller, in my opinion is the best ‘Xs and Os’ coach I’ve ever had and probably the best ‘Xs and Os’ coach in the region,” Rogo said. “He knows so much about the game and has helped my ball handling and shooting. I wouldn’t be close to the player I am without him.”
After a successful freshmen year, Rogo matured vastly. As the only returning starter as a sophomore, he became the second leading scorer on the team. It was then he decided to provide a spark for his squad by embracing the role of leader.
“I think I matured in approaching different players, different ways. Some players, you might have to get in their socks a little hard. Some you may have to talk to soft spoken,” he said. “You have to know how different players react to different ways you approach them.”
Rogo’s proudest moment in basketball came during his sophomore season in the first round of the 2010 district tournament. Second-seeded Stone Bridge led at home by three points with two seconds left in regulation.
The six-foot-two guard found an open look behind the arc but was fouled. Time no longer an issue, Rogo had to make all three free throws to take his seventh-seeded team into overtime for any chance to advance in the tournament.
“Before I shot the free throw, the district player of the year then on Stone Bridge came up to me and said ‘you can’t make these three free throws.’ I just smiled at him.”
Rogo said he went into a ‘zone.’ He blocked out all sound and focused on the hoop. Swish-swish-swish. The team’s leader sent the game into overtime and McLean won the game.
“I think I respond really well to pressure. If I am put on the line, I just approach it like it is any other shot.”
While displaying his strength and aggression on the court, his mother says Gordon has always remained open and cordial to others.
“Gordon had always been compassionate. If he sees an old lady at the store pushing a cart he goes over and pushes the cart back for her,” Rogo’s mother said. “I would like Gordon to go to a good university and because he really likes basketball, I would like him to be a college basketball player. I would like to see him realize his dream.”
*Paula Rogo has written stories for McLean Patch.