If I told someone that Noel Rogers was one of best defensive guards that UofL Men’s Basketball has ever had, I would likely receive a puzzling look. But, if I said the exact same about “Tick” (Noel’s nickname given to him in his youth) Rogers, then said folks would shake their heads and agree.
One might say that Tick Rogers was born to be a Louisville Basketball player. He was most definitely born to play defense, that’s for certain. Like the gnat that will swirl around your head and eyes incessantly during the summertime, Tick Rogers confused, frustrated and frankly pissed off more opposing basketball players than a bad NCAA Tournament draw.
A hero in his hometown and a fan favorite in the Ville, Tick Rogers carved out a successful career on the hardwood. Read along as I go in depth with him on, of course, his basketball playing days but also his life after hoops and how he became the person and father that he is today.
This is Issue 8 of the Return to the Flock series – Noel “Tick” Rogers
Growing up in the small town of Munfordville (Hart County), when did you start playing basketball and was there a certain time you realized that you had a special talent?
TR: I started playing ball when I was about 3 or 4 years old. My dad put a basketball goal behind my grandmother’s house and I literally played every day. I can remember my dad telling a story about me being about 4 years old and taking me to the school fair. He paid for me to take 2 shots from the free throw line, people gathered around to watch me shoot because I just kept making the shots and they couldn’t believe it. The people couldn’t believe that I was even getting the ball to the rim, but the ball just kept going in.
When I got a little older, around 7 or 8 years old, I started going to the “Fair Grounds” to play, this is where everyone that could play came to hoop. This is where I first started playing “streetball.” I was probably 4-5 years younger than the guys I was playing against, so you can imagine the beatings I was taking. Playing with guys 12-15 years older was brutal but that competition helped me understand what it was gonna take to be a good player. I think playing against the older players gave me confidence that I could be a good player if I worked hard enough.
By the way, your birth name is Noel Rogers correct? How did you acquire the nickname Tick? (I already have my own theory)
TR: Correct my birth name is Noel Rogers Jr. I was named after my dad. I heard a couple stories about how I got the name Tick but I’m not sure which is true. I know that people have been calling me Tick since I was a little kid. My dads’ friends use to call me Little Tick and my dad Big Tick. But once I got older, they dropped the little and just started calling me Tick. When I go back home and see my dad’s friends they still ask “What’s Big Tick up to?”
(Editor’s note: my theory was that Noel was just a good defensive player that people started saying that he stuck to you like a Tick; and I have believed that for all these years)
Speaking of Munfordville, it’s a smaller central Kentucky town where I know from experience the majority of basketball fans are of the Kentucky variety. Did you grow up pulling against UK? Did you grow up liking UofL?
My hometown is probably 80% UK fans but they always supported me while I was at UofL. That’s the good thing about coming from a small town, they have always had my back and still do today. On the other hand, my family (Dad, Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins) has always been Louisville Fans.
When I was younger, I think I might have been a little confused. I can remember my dad coming home and telling me that he had tickets for us to the Louisville game, I was probably 7-8 years old. I asked him, “Why didn’t you get tickets to the UK game?” He told me to find my own way to Rupp Arena the best way I could and left me home. From that time forward I have always been a Louisville fan.
(Editor’s note: I’m loving “Big Tick” at this point)
You became the first player in boy’s 5th region history to win the coveted Mr. Basketball Award. Talk a little bit about what that meant to you.
TR: Being Mr. Basketball is a great honor. At the time I didn’t really think about it too much. I was just a young kid that was having fun playing the sport I loved. My family never made a big deal of it, I mean they were proud of me but they placed more emphasis on being humble and being a good person. Over the years I have thought about it more and it is something that I can brag about when I’m talking to my kids.
Looking back there were a lot of good players that came out of the class of 1992. I think there might have been about 14 players to sign Division 1 scholarships from Kentucky that year. That might be the best overall class from the state in history so that makes the honor even more special. I’m sure there are other classes that would disagree but that’s my opinion.
Obviously, you would sign with Louisville out of high school. What other schools showed serious interest in you?
TR: There were a lot of schools that showed serious interest.
I took an official visit to South Carolina because I liked Stan Hardin who was the assistant coach there at the time. He was from Kentucky and had just won a couple of state championships at Fairdale. I visited Western because that’s where my Mom wanted me to go. At the time Ralph Willard was the head coach and Tom Crean was the assistant coach that was recruiting me. My mom really liked Tom and thought that Western was the best place for me because it was so close to my home. I took a visit to Minnesota because Clem Haskins was the coach and he was well respected around my area. I knew a lot of people that spoke very highly of Clem and he grew up not far from where I grew up.
There were more major D-1 schools but I mentioned those three because those were the schools that I seriously considered but I knew my heart was always on Louisville.
(Editor’s note: I never knew Tom Crean was an assistant at WKU – I’m shook at this point)
What was your connection to UofL?
TR: As I mentioned earlier my whole family was comprised of Louisville fans. My Mom even liked Louisville, in fact she used to pick me up from school early when Louisville would play the early games in the NCAA Tournament.
(Editor’s note: how cool is Tick Roger’s mom?????)
Did Coach Crum recruit you directly?
TR: Yes, Coach Crum recruited me directly. It was Coach Crum and Scooter McCray that were the most involved in my recruiting
On the topic of Coach Crum, what was it like playing for a Hall of Fame Coach like him?
TR: Coach Crum was great to play for. I’ve never met a person that was a better X and O coach than him. If a play needed to be drawn up for a basket he was definitely the person you wanted drawing up the play. Not many people get the chance to play for a Hall of Fame Coach and it was an honor to play for Coach Crum.
Did you find him to be a different person off the court?
TR: They call him “Cool Hand Luke” for a reason. I never saw him get rattled on or off the court. He always spoke with the same tone on and off the court. Even when I see him nowadays, he’s still the same person. He’s always been a very approachable person that has shown his players the right way to conduct ourselves whether on the court or in public. He’s always led by example and that’s why he’s still so well respected in the basketball world today.
You had a terrific career at UofL and played on some very good teams. In looking back, what are three or four memories you most often think about?
TR: I’m sure you will get this answer a lot when asking players from my time about the highlights of their career. My number 1 highlight would probably be being able to play for the University of Louisville and Coach Crum since I grew up a Louisville fan. It really was an honor to play for a Hall of Fame coach and a second to none university.
My second greatest moment was beating UK at Freedom Hall my junior year, I think they were ranked number 1 or 2. My third greatest moment was also one of my saddest moments and that was Senior Night. The fans sent all of the seniors out proud to be a Cardinal and crying at the same time.
Individually you were known as a hellacious defensive player. In fact, you rank 5th all-time at UofL with 220 steals and an individual game record of 10 steals against Western Carolina that still stands today. What made you such a good defensive player?
TR: There are a couple of people that I have to say pushed me to be a good defensive player. I think I really started to be pushed on the defensive end when I was in high school. My high school coach, Ricky Line, and Coach Don Daniel were the first to really test me on the defensive end. They were the first to push me and really get on me about playing defense.
In college my freshman year I didn’t play much and had thoughts of transferring but I went to talk to Coach Crum and asked him what I needed to do to get on the floor. His response was, “You aren’t doing me any good if you score 10 points and your man scores 15.” So, from that point on my main focus was defense and the rest is history.
I ask this question to most everyone because it usually invokes some interesting names…..who are three or four of the toughest opponents you played against while at Louisville?
TR: To be honest I played against some great players but my toughest battles were in practice. I think DeJuan Wheat is the best guard that I saw in my years at UofL. I think me and Alvin Sims pushed each other in practice, to the point where there was tension at times, which helped both of us. I think Jason Osborne is the most skilled player that I have seen and these are just a few guys. There are many more that deserve to be mentioned.
In looking back, any regrets from your college career?
TR: No regrets, and if I had it to do all over again, I would still be in the Cardinal uniform. That time was the best years of my life.
What are you most proud of?
TR: The thing that I’m most proud of is trying to be the best parent I can be.
Following your college career, you played professionally. Give the readers a quick overview of how long you played and where…
TR: I played 12 years in Europe and 1 year in the CBA. I played in Croatia, Turkey, Finland, Israel, and for the Connecticut Pride in the CBA
An interesting back story would later develop in your life as you had a daughter (Kyvin Goodin-Rogers) who was a basketball standout at Marion County High School. She committed to UofL early in the recruiting process but later de-committed and signed with Kentucky. What was that rollercoaster experience like for you as a former Card and more importantly as a father?
TR: As a father, I never influenced her one way or the other. My advice was to always go where you feel like you will be happy. I tried to treat the situation the same way my father treated my recruitment. Even though I knew my father was a big Louisville Fan, he never once tried to lead me to one school over the other. It was always my choice. So, I did the same thing. Deep down inside I wish she would have gone to Louisville but the choice was 100% hers. My job as a dad was to support her decision and try to help her be the best person possible.
Do you have any other children besides Kyvin?
TR: Yes….I have three
So now that your basketball playing days are behind you, what are up to professionally now?
TR: I am a sales rep for ADT
(Editor’s note: Oh, the irony…The king of steals is now helping others from being stolen from)
How have you passed the time during the COVID-19 pandemic?
TR: I’ve been locked in the house. It’s a bad time but if we do the right things, we will get past this. I’m sure it’s tough for everyone but tough times bring out the best in strong people.
Do you have an opinion on Chris Mack?
TR: I really like Chris Mack. I think he’s a great coach and I believe he will be a Cardinal for a long time. Coach Mack has done a great job bridging the divide that the previous coaching staff left. It finally feels like we are all a family again.
As I ask everyone, how do you hope that Louisville fans will remember the most about as a player?
TR: I hope the fans to remember the effort that I gave every night. As a player, I didn’t do everything right but I left everything on the floor.