CRYSTAL LAKE – Austin Rogers’ critics are relentless, judging almost every move on the basketball court.
They groan when he misses an open shot or commits a turnover. No other Crystal Lake South player receives such scrutiny because they care so much. Because they love him. Because he is theirs.
Rogers is the third of Al and Jeannine Rogers’ sons to come through the Gators’ basketball program. The 6-foot-1 junior forward combines the athleticism of oldest brother Steven (a 2009 graduate) and the shooting of Kevin (2011) and averages 14.9 points a game, fourth among area players.
South (13-14) is the No. 5 seed in the Class 4A Jacobs Regional. The Gators face No. 4 Cary-Grove (12-15) at 6 p.m. Monday, with No. 3 Jacobs (16-14) meeting No. 6 Prairie Ridge (8-18) in the second game.
Rogers knows his father and brothers will evaluate everything he does, and he’s fine with that.
“They’re hard on me, but that’s the way it’s been my whole life,” he said. “They want me to thrive and be the best that I can.”
Steven, now a senior at Augustana College, is on break this week and will see Austin play in the regional. Kevin, a sophomore at Western Illinois, will be away at school.
“It’s a tough love type of thing,” Steven said. “We’re his biggest critics, along with being his biggest fans. We always look out for him and want him to be the best he can.”
Rogers was destined for an athletic career. Al played football and Jeannine, a high school 800-meter state champion, ran track at Western Illinois. Steven played football and basketball, and ran track at South. He also ran two years at Augie. Kevin played football and basketball and was fourth in the area in 2011 with 57 3-pointers.
“Our house is like ESPN Central,” Jeannine said. “I have to go upstairs if I want to watch something that’s not sports.”
Although Steven and Kevin may be critical now, they also were good to their younger brother while growing up, taking him places when they were playing hoops.
“At Lifetime [Fitness], at the park, they always took him with them,” Jeannine said. “He has a ton of big brothers. He’s had that benefit. They’re hard on him, but they’re very proud and supportive of him.”
Steven was faster and made his living in basketball by getting to the rim. Austin shows some of those moves, but also can pull up for a 3-pointer, like Kevin would. Austin, who is 200 pounds, also was South’s quarterback last football season, helping the Gators to their 12th consecutive playoff appearance. It was his first year playing that position.
“I’d always argue for myself, but really he is the best athlete of the three,” Steven said. “He’s more physically gifted, and he’s bigger and stronger.”
“Austin has all of it,” she says. “You can throw him in any sport and he can do it. He can pick up anything. He’s a good golfer, and try beating him in pool.”
Austin thanks his brothers for expediting his athletic development. He said their friends took it easy on him when he was smaller, but eventually that stopped.
“When I got to the seventh or eighth grade, they would play hard,” Austin said.
Rogers and guard Nick Geske both are quick players with good shooting touches who can be difficult to guard. Geske averages 12.6 points a game. Gators coach Matt LePage said Rogers is averaging 18 points a game in FVC Valley Division games.
South rides a four-game winning streak into the Jacobs Regional.
“He’s been a force behind the [recent] turnaround we’ve had,” LePage said. “He’s been aggressive and assertive and he’s becoming a great passer. He’s been really, really good.”
Rogers likes to play a well-rounded game.
“I just try to do a lot of everything, score, rebound, get assists, guard their best player if that’s what we need,” Rogers said. “I just want to help us be competitive.”