Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry heavily inspires Nandel Rodriguez’s game on the court. “He just shoots with no effort,” he says. What Nandel may or may not know is that Curry’s story is far from an effortless journey. His avenue to his current MVP status was a rough road. As a child, he wasn’t considered the most promising athlete and was overlooked by many due to his size and lack of strength.
From Seventh Grade to Slam Dunk
However, he used these limitations to his advantage. Before Curry, conventional basketball wisdom suggested taking too many long-distance shots was risky. He challenged this norm and overhauled the game with his unique playing style. While not guaranteed, Curry’s story teaches us that when you challenge the status quo, you can show others that different can be good and change the game as a whole.
Basketball is the reason Nandel crawls out of bed in the morning. Playing NBA ball is his absolute dream, and when he’s not honing his skills at the three-point line, he studies the speed of Giannis, the ball-handling skills of LaMelo Ball, and the aforementioned shooting expertise of the “baby-faced Assassin” Steph. Nandel has mastered the fundamentals, is learning the correct physical fitness techniques to avoid injury, practices regularly, and will soon know what it’s like to play against better competition. His devotion to the sport and study of professional players’ strategies will give him a leg up toward breaking into the professional league one day.
He also understands the importance of balance in an athlete’s life. Nandel is equally dedicated to his favorite academic subjects: social studies, science, and shop (in no particular order of preference). The projects he’s finished in shop class (he loves working the drill) have even impacted local nursing home residents. For Valentine’s Day, Nandel and his class crafted hearts that were presented to the residents. “We made easter eggs,” he says. “We made a whole lot of stuff in there.” He also enjoys some hobbies outside of basketball, such as taking his dog out after school and playing Fortnite on PlayStation 4.
Nandel’s commitment to his team is another lesson in athleticism he’s picked up on early in his career. His friends are the starting five for the Middle School Bobkits, and they would most likely describe him as “a jokester.” Though humor during serious competition can be underappreciated, Nandel understands that joking is a tool for team cohesion. Shared laughter can create a sense of camaraderie, breaking down barriers and facilitating open communication among team members.
If Nandel washed up on a deserted island and had to inform the occupants about his time at Meridian, he says, “I’ll tell ‘em that I had the most fun in basketball here.” Considering his reverence for the sport, we see several similarities between his story and the early days of Stephen Curry. Down the road, another Meridian 7th grader will follow Nandel’s career and echo the sentiments we heard from him today: “He just shoots with no effort.” That’s not quite the whole truth, as there’s plenty of effort involved, but by the time he’s in the NBA, it’ll look offhand enough to say so.