Christopher Hyder and Adrian Rodgers have a matter-of-fact approach to their final game at Southern on Saturday.
They know the regular-season finale against Prairie View (5:30 p.m.) will be their last game in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, but they’re hopeful that a bigger milestone lies ahead.
“I think about it, but it doesn’t really hit me that hard because I’m focused in on the game,” Rodgers said. “I’m not worried about senior night or the last home game or anything like that. It’s just the next game for us.
“I try to play every game the same and just leave it out there on the court. It might be emotional for some people, but for me it’s just going to be the next game. That’s how I look at it.”
The Jaguars (19-11, 11-6) are coming off an 82-77 victory against SWAC champion Texas Southern on Thursday, a win that ended a three-game losing streak. The Panthers, who beat Southern 71-65 nine weeks ago, are 6-23 and 6-11.
“It’s a feeling that will probably come when the game is almost over,” Hyder said. “It’s not our last game, so we have to focus in on the conference tournament because we’re eligible.”
The Jaguars, who will honor Hyder, Rodgers and fellow senior Thomas Pierre-Louis in a postgame ceremony, will enter the SWAC tournament in Houston next week as the No. 3 or No. 4 seed. More importantly, they enter knowing that if they win the tournament they will qualify for the NCAA tournament, a prospect that didn’t exist the past two seasons because of NCAA probation.
“I’m hoping they can finish their careers in the postseason because of the sacrificing they did,” coach Roman Banks said. “I appreciate those guys for helping me as a coach to get through some tough times.”
Hyder came in four years ago and hung around two years ago even as multiple teammates transferred rather than play a second season under the NCAA postseason ban.
“Here’s a guy that came in and made a commitment to the program when we first came in, one of the first high-school recruits that we signed,” said Banks, who’s in his fifth season. “This is his senior year, and the only thing that I really regret for him is that we had to rebuild through his stay.
“He’s been great. Whatever the situation he’s been, ‘Coach, I’m here. I got you.’ I have to appreciate him the most and thank him for being a four-year guy.”
Hyder, who’s from Dallas, said he “never” considered transferring.
“(Banks) recruited me and he showed interest in me,” Hyder said. “I’ve had a chance to win three rings since I’ve been here. Unfortunately we lost in the championship last year, so this year I look forward to going back and getting another.”
The Jaguars lost to Texas Southern in the SWAC tournament title game last season, a year after they won the regular-season title.
Hyder and Rodgers are strong candidates for all-SWAC honors. Hyder is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and he has been among the national leaders in steals and assist-turnover ratio all season. Rodgers is the SWAC’s second-leading scorer in conference play (18.1).
“(Hyder) couldn’t shoot a lick when he came here,” Banks said. “He was just known for defending and dribbling the basketball, but now his game has evolved which is what you want to see as a coach.”
Rodgers, who’s from Atlanta, sat out two years ago as a transfer from South Carolina-Upstate before playing the past two seasons.
“He’s a guy who I think appreciates the opportunity we gave him,” Banks said. “He found a niche here. We’ve been able to utilize his ability to shoot the basketball. He’s been able to come in and score some points and I think he enjoys doing that.”
Pierre-Louis is from Miami and came in two years ago from Western Oklahoma State College.