St. Thomas basketball coach John Tauer knows better than anyone his gifted freshman point guard Andrew Rohde will be welcomed with high-fives by a Power Five program.
Rumors have been in place for a while other schools could be tampering with the Summit League Freshman of the Year and encouraging him to transfer programs. Tampering is illegal in college sports but so are other things that are going on in an era referred to as “the wild, wild west.”
“If people tamper, they’re not going to call the head coach,” Tauer told Sports Headliners during an interview a few days ago. “…You just operate the right way as a program and hope others are doing the same, but it’s an interesting time in college basketball.”
Yesterday came news Rohde has entered the transfer portal and is headed for a new school for the 2023-2024 season. In a text to Sports Headliners last night Tauer said: “…We wish him all the best in what promises to be a long and successful basketball career.”
During an interview Friday Tauer didn’t express knowledge of a transfer by Rohde but he made it clear he knows as well as anyone the reality of mass player movement. With the transfer portal a huge change agent for college players, Tauer and other coaches acknowledge there are no guarantees the roster in the fall will look like it does in the spring. Until yesterday’s news, St. Thomas could have returned 12 of 14 players including four starters.
Wisconsin Badgers fans have been calling for Rohde, a Milwaukee native, to come home for a while now. And Gophers fans would love to have Rohde fill the team’s glaring need for a point guard, but it seems unlikely he would be attracted to a program that is down right now with players leaving and coming off consecutive last place finishes in the Big Ten.
“We’d love to have Andrew (stay),” Tauer said Friday. “He’s an unbelievable kid. He had a tremendous freshman year, and (he is) an even better young man than a player. He’s got an infectious energy. He’s really unselfish, hardworking (and) he’s competitive. He just brings so many wonderful things to the table.”
The 6-6, 185-pound Rohde, who was one of the top three first-year scorers in the country, is a finalist for the Kyle Macy Award, given annually to the nation’s top freshman. He was voted first-team All-Summit, in addition to his freshman honor. He played a team high 33 minutes per game and was the Tommies’ leader in scoring (17.1 per game), assists and steals.
“I think he’s hungry to be great, and that’s not just as a player,” Tauer said. “It’s also as a teammate. …I think over the course of the year he really improved, and that to me is one of the things that is most special about him.”
A player who received no Power Five offers coming out of high school, Rohde can attract a long line of suitors now if he chooses. “I think Andrew could play in the NBA someday if he continues to progress,” Tauer said. “You look at the trajectory of his junior year of high school to his senior year of high school to his freshman year of college and what he just did. …I think Andrew can do whatever he puts his mind to in basketball.”
Rohde’s roots run deep with St. Thomas. He came to the campus as a middle schooler when his brother Sam was part of the basketball program. In high school he received a lot of attention from Tauer and the coaching staff who made him feel wanted and valued.
What Tauer saw in Rohde at Brookfield Central was a player who fit the criteria he values in a prospect: unselfish, skilled, smart and tough. “I thought he embodied those (characteristics),” Tauer said.
Tauer and his staff found an unpolished gem in Rohde, and a player who delivers on the words he loves basketball. Most players say that but only some like Rohde can face pressure situations in a packed arena and wear a smile on their faces. “That’s when you know,” Tauer said.
Tauer, who just completed his 12th season coaching the Tommies, has a doctorate in sport-related psychology. He has long been aware of the pressure and stress college freshmen face in transitioning not only to basketball but all of campus life including academics. “We don’t put (establish) quantitative goals for anybody as far what they can do their freshman year. Now I will tell you in the summer we felt like he (Rohde) was going to be elite. We knew he was going to play a ton of minutes and have the ball in his hands a lot, and the kind of role that he did.
“To his credit I think he took that and ran with it and continued to improve over the year. That’s the thing I keep coming back to is how coachable he was. …He was hungry and open to whatever feedback I had for him.”
Tauer now has three scholarships available and plans to fill out his roster either through the portal or with high school talent within a month or so. He was hoping, of course, to not have a scholarship become available because of Rohde’s departure.
“I think the sky’s the limit for Andrew,” Tauer said. “I’ve always felt that.”
The Tauer-coached Tommies just finished season two of their challenging transition from Division III to Division I, playing in the mid-major Summit League. It’s been a more than successful time, just like the preceding years when Tauer was a Division III National Coach of the Year and the Tommies were a program that could play with anyone at their level.
Before last season the Tommies were predicted to finish eighth in the 10-team league but placed fourth. The team was 19-14 overall, 9-9 in conference play and nearly doubled its win total for all games from the previous year.
Tauer said via text last night he is “thrilled” with the progress of his program. “…The culture in our program is unique and has helped us sustain success over the past several decades.”