One of the best ever sports editors at The Pan American newspaper, Michael Saenz, asked to interview me about the death of Marshall Rogers, one of Texas-Pan American's greatest all-time basketball players.
Saenz asked me an hour's questions about Rogers and used many of the answers in his brilliant, nearly full-page story in the July 14 issue of the Pan American student newspaper. Here are some of the things he wrote about Rogers.
He began his story, headlined across a full page, "Former Bronc basketball star passes away."
"Throughout the existence of UT Pan American basketball, from 1927 to now, there have been many great players. But perhaps the greatest player to ever put on a Bronc uniform was Marshall Rogers, who died recently (June 15) in St. Louis."
"As former UTPA Sports Information Director Jim McKone points out, Rogers was one of the most unique and hard-working players ever."
McKone, who worked at the university from 1969 to 1999, explained one instance that happened during a game in 1976, the year Rogers led the nation in scoring with a 60.5 average.
Pan American head coach Abe Lemons (now deceased) asked Rogers to stop playing defense so he could rest.
To anyone who knows anything about the game of basketball, that is just unheard of. With the fun-loving Lemons everything was possible.
"During a game, I distinctively remember Coach Lemons yelled out to Marshall, and told him just to stop playing defense," McKone said. "At first we thought it was a joke, but the coach was serious...Lemons wanted him to stand at half-court and stop playing defense so he could rest." McKone added, "This was very weird, if you ask me. Marshall was always known for playing hard at both ends of the court, so asking him to rest to me was totally surprising."
Rogers didn't have the biggest body at 6 foot one and 190 pounds, but the strong guard was well-respected on the court by his teammates and his coaches.
"Marshall was fearless, and even though bigger teams would try to knock him around and take him out of the game, he never backed down," McKone said.
McKone explained about the high scorer leading the nation. In one game he remembered Marshall was knocked cold. He recovered enough to shake it off and return for the second half and help us win the game.
Rogers started off at the University of Kansas, but didn't see eye-to-eye with his coach. After he came to Pan American, he had to sit out his sophomore season to gain eligibility for junior and senior years.
Rogers became the face of Bronc basketball with his fearful offensive attack.
He hit 27.7 per game, then led the entire country as a senior, punctuating the run with 58 points against Texas Lutheran in one game.
He only played a total of 27 games in two years with the Broncs, to finish with 1,803 points.
Former teammate Jesus (Chuey) Guerra put into words just how great Rogers was.
"Marshall was the most talented player on our team and was also the hardest worker and that's a deadly combination," Guerra said.
"He was well-respected among his teammates, due to his top-notch work ethic, which was appreciated especially because he was such a great player," Guerra said. Guerra is another among the all-time champion Bronc basketball players.
Rogers still holds many UT Pan American records. The most impressive record was that he led the team to a fantastic 22 wins in just two years there. After Rogers' collegiate record at UT Pan American, he was drafted in the second round pick (No. 33 in the nation) of the NBA draft. He enjoyed a very brief NBA career when he scored 200 points in 26 games, but drifted off basketball after that year. He weathered between mental illness and other health obstacles in his life. He lost his long-time battle with diabetes on June 15 this year.
"It really hurt to hear of the loss of not only a great former Bronc player, but also a great person," McKone said. "It really brought me to tears, hearing about his death. He was so young. He will be missed by everyone who knew him."