The entirety of Rodrick Sikes' freshman campaign at Southwest Mississippi Community College was anything but smooth.
The former St. Martin standout got off to a good start and was performing like one of the Bears' best guards to open the season. Then on Southwest's trip to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College on Jan. 14, Sikes broke his wrist.
He initially tried to play through the injury but ended up being sidelined for three and a half weeks.
Upon his return, he wasn't quite the same player he was at the start of the season. It took him a while to find his groove again -- but once he did opponents had no response.
After averaging 7.9 points through the regular season, Sikes exploded for a career-high 27 points in the Bears' MACJC Tournament opener, a 86-80 win over Northwest.
Sikes' shots didn't fall in the second-round game, but thanks to Gautier's Lafayette Rutledge, the Bears still prevailed over East Mississippi 61-59.
The former Yellow Jacket rebounded in the championship game, setting a new career-high with a 31-point performance in Southwest's 94-83 win over Jones.
"The offensive aspect of his game had to come along through the course of the year. His first couple games back, he had a couple tough nights out trying to do more than his body was willing to do," Southwest coach Thomas Gray said. "He just hung in there, persevered. The days we had off leading to the state tournament, he was able to get into the gym, really put work in that he needed to."
The extra work paid off as the Sikes Gray saw earlier in the year returned to the court.
"It definitely showed in the tournament," Gray said. "That was what we've all expected at Southwest from Rodrick Sikes. He was definitely the offensive spark we needed."
Gray said he saw a new dimension from Sikes, who instead of settling for shots was making plays happen -- as evident by his 22 free throw attempts against JCJC.
"He really took to the slashing and getting to the rim," Gray said. "That was a huge tribute to his game, being able to put the ball on the floor and using his athleticism to get to the rim.
"Jones just couldn't stay in front of him."
Looking ahead, Gray said the sky is the limit for Sikes.
"When he came here from St. Martin, getting to Division I was the goal," Gray said. "Obviously putting down performances like that are going to boost those chances. He's definitely a D1 guy after next year -- what level will be up to how hard he works this offseason."
Gray also talked up Rutledge, who averaged 13.9 points per game this season and scored 16, 17 and 10 points in Southwest's post-season push.
"He's probably the best 3-point shooter in the state of Mississippi by far," Gray said of Rutledge, who shot 43.1 percent from long-range.
Gray also complimented Rutledge for becoming a better all-around player, saying the sophomore told Southwest's radio crew "he couldn't guard a garbage can when he first arrived -- but now he can guard anyone."
Needless to say, Gray thinks the world of his graduating sophomore.
"He's as good of a young man as you'll ever be around," Gray said. "He willed this team to the state championship because of his leadership, focus and who he was off the floor.
"He's really a one of a kind."