“In any other year, she’s an MVP candidate,” said College of the Canyons women’s basketball head coach Greg Herrick.
The “she” is COC sophomore point guard Marina Rojas, who is currently starring on an 8-14 team. But according to Herrick, what she has been doing for the Cougars this season has been “pretty amazing.”
Standing at just five-foot-four-inches, Rojas leads the team, and ranks 12th in the entire Western State Conference with 9.3 rebounds per game. That mark also puts her fourth in the WSC South Division.
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As a freshman, Rojas led the WSC South in assists while playing alongside six-foot-inch forwards and All-WSC Team members Hannah Green and Monica Friedl. This season she leads the entire WSC with 5.9 assists per game, and ranks sixth in the state, while taking the floor each night as part of a team that has been reduced to six players as a result of injury and circumstance.
Rojas is also averaging 13 points per game this season, up from her mark of 7.6 as a freshman, while typically facing the opposing team’s best defender every time she touches the ball. “She’s not flashy,” said Herrick, “but when we put the ball in her hands, I know she is going to do the best she can— which is all that I can ever ask.”
Though she starts at point guard on defense, Rojas is often asked to play a forward role in crashing the boards and defending the post.
“She has a desire to do all the things we ask her to do,” said Herrick, pointing to Rojas’ reputation as an energetic and unselfish player. “Telling Marina to hustle is something that has never come out of my mouth.”
Rojas has now recorded a triple-double in four straight games to begin conference play, with the most recent coming in COC’s 57-40 victory at West L.A. College on Wednesday night.
She finished the game with a stat line of 20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 steals and six assists to finish just shy of reaching mythical quadruple-double territory.
Over the course of that streak, Rojas is averaging 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 11.7 assists, while rarely, if ever, coming off the floor.
“I tell her sometimes, this is your show, take it over,” Herrick said.
She has already recorded five triple-doubles on the season, prompting many around the COC athletic facility to reference NBA star Russell Westbrook when talking about Rojas’ game.
“It’s kind of ironic that she’s done all that with Westbrook doing his (triple-double) thing every night,” said Herrick. “But to me, that’s an amazing stat. Double-digit points is hard enough to achieve, forget about the fact that she’s out there getting rebounds, facing the other team’s best defender every night and involving her teammates.”
Though the Cougars struggled through the early part of the season, things look to be trending upward for Herrick’s squad. COC is 3-1 in conference play and sits just one game behind Santa Monica for the conference’s top spot. This after going 2-10 in the team’s previous 12 games.
Adding to COC’s recent resurgence are freshmen Dayna Tanaka (team-leading 15.7 points per game) and Morgan Bizzell (11.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game), who have both helped Rojas shoulder the load down the stretch.
With four games remaining, including a big home match up against Santa Monica on Feb. 11, anything is possible — even the improbable.
“The fact that we are even where we’re at right now is amazing,” said Herrick, pointing to the team’s depleted roster and record entering the conference schedule. “But, it’s fun to know that you’re still in the hunt.
“Marina has carried this team on her back, and if you look at the statistics it will show that,” he added. “I respect her tremendously, because her attitude has been so good despite the circumstances.”
COC will return to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, when the Lady Cougars travel to face L.A. Pierce College.