Learning the job, day and night

Nikolas Rhodes considers himself a night owl. He doesn't plan on that changing.

In the middle of the night in the heart of the San Fernando Valley for the past year, Rhodes has often visited a 24-hour gym in Northridge. Instead of lifting weights or running, Rhodes will trek to the basketball court in the hopes of perfecting his skills.

Rhodes, a freshman point guard on the Glendale Community College men's basketball team, said he will take up to 800 shots before retreating home to rest.

No matter the hour, it's about Rhodes spending his time wisely. The results have shown while patrolling the court for the Vaqueros.

"If I miss the shots while practicing, then it motivates me even more," said Rhodes, a Cleveland High graduate. "It's helped me a lot with my drive and focus."

Rhodes said he came to Glendale college seeking an opportunity to play. Starting wasn't something Rhodes necessarily entertained.

Following a few practice sessions in the late summer, Rhodes convinced veteran Glendale college Coach Brian Beauchemin that he could handle the workload.

"He came to one of our workouts and I said to myself that he's got some potential," said Beauchemin, who took over the program in 1979. "I could see him running the floor and snapping passes that a lot of players can't do off the dribble.

"You could see him improving and he sees the floor very well. In a pressure-dominated conference, he seems to handle it well for a freshman.

"In our conference, almost every game can be tight. Because of that, you want to have a good ball handler. He's done a remarkable job getting the ball to open people at the right time and made us better."

Rhodes hasn't shown any signs of backing down against the traditional powers that the conference has to showcase. Entering Wednesday's game against host Citrus College, he was averaging 10.2 points, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

Since Western State Conference competition began Jan. 5, Rhodes has been named the conference's player of the week twice. He's also played a factor in helping keep the Vaqueros in contention for a Southern Division title with the likes of Citrus College, College of the Canyons and Santa Monica City College.

The stakes are normally high playing in the division, which challenges Rhodes to elevate his game with crisp shooting and passing for a Vaquero squad that's 16-9, 5-4 in the division through Wednesday.

In a division road game against L.A. Valley on Jan. 29, Rhodes registered 15 points and six assists to spark the Vaqueros to a 64-52 victory. Earlier in the season, Rhodes earned a spot on the all-tournament team of the Rio Hondo College Tournament.

"I asked Coach Beauchemin and [assistant Coach Vigen] Jilizian what I needed to do to make the team and they said to shoot more, play strong defense and keep working on my work ethic," Rhodes said. "They let me start playing and I got a better feel for the game.

"I go out there and I don't think about being scared of anybody. You always have to keep persevering."

Rhodes, one of nine freshmen on the 13-member squad, has worked well with his fellow guards, including freshman Nate Bryant.

Bryant said Rhodes has brought an added dimension to the Vaqueros' attack.

"Every game, I keep telling him to keep his head up and just play his type of game," Bryant said. "I like the way he dribbles the ball and can make the quick pass upcourt."

The Vaqueros have three more division contests left, beginning with a home game at 5 p.m. Saturday against West L.A. Then Glendale will travel to Canyons on Wednesday before closing out the regular season at home Feb. 19 against Bakersfield.

Rhodes said there's plenty for him and his team to get accomplished should the Vaqueros qualify for the Southern California Regionals for the first time since 2008.

"It's been a real fun season so far," Rhodes said. "I know that my teammates and I can get better.

"I want us to get better results."

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