Utah State Solid As Rock

 

 
 

March 16, 2001

By JENNA FRYER
AP Sports Writer

GREENSBORO, N.C. - With his nine tattoos and pierced belly button, Bernard Rock looks more like Allen Iverson than a typical Utah State player.

His slashing, aggressive game is suited more for a New York City playground than it is for Logan, Utah. Yet he's a perfect fit for the Aggies.

"With his tattoos and being from New York and the flair in his game, people don't understand how solid this kid is to coach," said Utah State coach Stew Morrill. "Don't let that flair fool you, there's a lot of substance to that young man."

Rock, Utah State's senior point guard, leads the 12th-seeded Utah State (28-5) into the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday when the Aggies play fourth-seeded UCLA (22-8).

It's a highlight on a long career that started in New York City, took a detour through Arizona and will eventually end in Utah.

"It's been a long journey," Rock said. "But I'm glad I made the choices I did."

Born in New York, Rock was 13 when a cousin earned a scholarship to an Arizona prep school and begged Rock to come with him. He said no, but changed his mind after playing in a tournament in Phoenix.

He enrolled in high school out there, then spent a year at New Mexico Military School. That's where Morrill discovered him and brought him to Utah State.

It wasn't always easy for Rock, who had to adjust to a slower pace of life once he went West.

"In New York, there's always a lot of stuff going on and the West is kind of quiet," he said. "In Arizona, it was hard for me to sleep not hearing sirens and gun shots - I was hearing crickets instead."

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CONFIDENT CLARENCE: It's easy for Clarence Gilbert's teammates to understand why people dislike Missouri's junior guard. They insist the fiery shooter is just misunderstood.

"Of course he rubs people the wrong way," said Kareem Rush. "Maybe it's some of the things he says or the shots he takes. That's just confidence and some people might mistake that for cockiness."

Gilbert hit the game-winning jumper with 0.9 seconds to play to lift Missouri over Georgia and send the ninth-seeded Tigers (20-12) into the second round to play top-seeded Duke (30-4).

Gilbert, who had missed 7-of-10 shots and two critical free throws before he hit the game-winner, said he never doubted he should be the one to take the final shot.

"How do you know if a shot will go in if you don't take it? You have to trust yourself," he said.

Gilbert said those who call him cocky don't know the correct definition of the word.

"Confidence is missing two and three shots and still taking a fourth," he said. "Cockiness is talking trash and showing off. People who think I'm cocky don't know the difference."

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MAYOR OF WESTWOOD: Steve Lavin likes to tell people he recruited guard Earl Watson to UCLA three times: The first time, he got Watson to attend the school, the next two were to keep him from going home to Kansas City.

"He was very introverted, very quiet and very shy," Lavin said. "He was very slow to trust people and it took him a long time to carve out a place for himself."

Now a senior, Watson is UCLA's leader and Lavin said his growth as a person and a player has been one of his greatest rewards as a coach.

"The quantum leaps he has made are really special and I've been really blessed to play a small part in his development," Lavin said. "He's gone from not being sure he belonged to one of the all-time greats, kind of turned into the Mayor of Westwood."

 

 

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