MOBILE, AL (WLOX) - Every time Rodrick Sikes takes the floor inside the Mitchell Center on the campus of South Alabama, he knows he’s living on borrowed time. All the more reason to leave everything on the line.
“It’s my senior year, there’s a countdown on everything," The former St. Martin standout said before South Alabama’s home contest against Mobile. "(There is a) countdown on my games, countdown on my practices, so it’s only a matter of time before it’s all over.”
The drive from St. Martin to South Alabama only takes about an hour, but Rodrick’s road from Yellow Jacket to Jaguar seemed much more winding along the way.
“I was actually just talking to some of my teammates the other day. It seems like just yesterday I was in junior college, and the day before I was in high school," Sikes said. "Time definitely flies.”
Averaging over 17 points per game in St. Martin’s run to the Class 6A quarterfinals, Sikes had high hopes for his collegiate future. However, he soon faced a difficult reality.
“My senior year of high school, I had the big head," Sikes said. "I felt like I was entitled to a Division I offer. I didn’t really realize how hard it was and what it actually took to be a Division I basketball player.”
Instead, he made the most of his opportunity at Southwest Mississippi Community College, leading the Bears to their first state title since 1963.
Now, South Alabama was the only Division I school who reached out to Sikes in high school. Did that make a difference the second time around?
“Honestly, it didn’t. I told myself I would not come to South Alabama because they did not take me out of high school. I kind of held a little bit of a grudge, but it kind of wore away after a while,” Sikes said with a smile.
It would seem the decision paid off. Sikes signed with South Alabama in 2017 and quickly became one of the Jaguars' key contributors over the last two seasons.
“It’s very rewarding, knowing that the work that I’ve put in is starting to pay off in between the lines on the court,” he said.
Sikes could score in high school, he could score in junior college, and now, he’s proven he can score at the Division I level. Sikes led the Jaguars last season with 18.7 points per game, good enough for the fourth-highest scoring average in the Sun Belt and for Second Team All-Sun Belt honors. The former Yellow Jacket has continued his torrid pace so far this season, averaging 14.8 points per game entering South Alabama’s Saturday contest against Richmond.
Kory Holden leads South Alabama in scoring with 15.8 points per game, but he has played in seven fewer games than Sikes.
“Not in a cocky way, but the mindset that I have is the person guarding me, he can’t guard me. There’s nobody that can guard me," Sikes said. "Having that confidence going into every game helps, but I’m never satisfied. There’s so much more that I want myself in the game of basketball.”
Those goals include a trip to the NCAA Tournament. March Madness hasn’t featured South Alabama since 2008, and as his time in college basketball winds down, the former Coast standout would love nothing more than to take his Jaguars to the Big Dance.
“We haven’t been there in a couple of years - a lot of years - but I think it’s something that this city deserves, to see South Alabama basketball back on top," Sikes said.
Sikes and the Jaguars wrap up their non-conference slate Saturday before tipping off Sun Belt play Thursday, January 3 when they host Appalachian State.