By Peter Gobis, The Sun Chronicle (Attleboro)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- A little more than four years ago, Bridgewater State University men’s basketball coach Joe Farroba of North Attleboro was sitting in the stands at the Albertini Gymnasium at Mansfield High, watching a kid by the name of Rocky DeAndrade perform wizardry on the floor with his playmaking and scoring skills.
What impressed Farroba even more was that DeAndrade not only demonstrated an understanding of the system in place under the guidance of Hornet coach Michael Vaughan, but also a willingness to sacrifice, an unselfishness to make every other Hornet on the floor better.
And above all, DeAndrade possessed leadership skills that can’t be taught.
“He has extraordinary leadership, the command of respect that he has from his peers is extremely trusting and for me as a coach, I couldn’t have had a better leader — he was a voice,” Farroba said of the Mansfield High grad.
On Saturday, Ryan “Rocky” DeAndrade will be in the commencement procession at Bridgewater State University.
Not only was he a leader on the basketball floor for the Bears, he was a leader in the locker room and in the classroom. At the 32nd annual Bridgewater State University All Sports banquet, DeAndrade received the Dr. Adrian Tinsley Male Scholar Athlete of the Year, along with earning the Student Athlete Leadership award.
He was one of more than 140 Bear student-athletes who maintained a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 or who earned Dean’s List honors.
On the basketball court, DeAndrade is a two-time All-MASCAC selection and was the MVP of the 2018 MASCAC Tournament.
“I’ve learned so much from athletics and that has helped me with my schoolwork. As an athlete, I had to understand how to balance school and ball, how to use my time,” DeAndrade said.
The challenges of playing in a highly competitive environment groomed him for the challenges in his academic studies, “facing that big test or getting a big paper done.
“My parents and my grandfather (Leo DeAndrade) instilled in me that work ethic — they always preached to be a leader, not a follower. Going to Bridgewater State was a very good fit for me academically and athletically to be successful.”
During his four seasons, the Bears compiled a 64-42 overall record and a 26-12 MASCAC record. They won the MASCAC Tournament title this season, got to the title game during DeAndrade’s freshman season and into the semifinal round during both of his sophomore and junior seasons.
All told, DeAndrade is in rare company; he is only the 28th Bears men’s hoopster to eclipse the 1,000-point career plateau, finishing with 1,150 points.
That was impressive enough over the course of four seasons in representing Bridgewater State, but DeAndrade also amassed 273 assists and 134 steals.
“It was definitely important to me to outwork everybody. That’s why I would show up in the gym at 6 a.m.,” DeAndrade said. “My training guidance was basically any film I could get on Kobe Bryant’s training regimen. When I’m doing double or triple the work that other people put in, I knew that it would pay off.
“I’ve never been the most athletic kid on the court, but I like to think that I’ve been a smart player.”
DeAndrade started in 79 consecutive games at Bridgewater State, 26 games this season and as a sophomore and 27 as a junior.
He was among the top three scorers in the MASCAC this season, averaging 16.2 points per game in leading the Bears in scoring. He reached double digits in scoring in 24 games.
That was remarkable in itself, but also consider that DeAndrade shot 47 percent from the floor, 42 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent at the free throw line.
“Being a point guard, leadership is important, no doubt,” DeAndrade said. “Having such great teammates at Mansfield was a great place for me to grow. It was easy for me to follow my mom and dad (and) my siblings as leaders, people who I was surrounded by.
“What Mike (Vaughan) did at Mansfield High is good with how he controls his team, to be accountable for each other. My teammates, how hard they all worked, you just become used to that every day.
“What Mike did at Mansfield High was good in how he holds a standard, to make everybody be accountable for each other.
“The way I am, I like not to procrastinate. I make sure that everything is done. I don’t like to be rushing through things, I like to be thorough; what I should prioritize during the week.
“I was surprised that I received the Scholar Athlete Award, there are so many other good athletes (at BSU). To receive it, I’m very thankful.”
Not one free throw, not one assist, not one forced turnover, not one shot made or defensive stop by DeAndrade surprised Vaughan.
“Rocky had a unique ability to be both a great leader by example but also communicate to his teammates to ensure everyone was playing at the highest level possible,” Vaughan said. “If you watched Rocky prepare for anything, it was hard not to follow him and demand more out of yourself.
“Rocky also understood how to treat and interact with his teammates, which made them respect him even more when he would demand more out of them.
“Aside from that, Rocky is one of the top three hardest working players when it came to individual workouts. I still remember watching Rocky doing full court drills by himself, which is almost unheard of by young players.”
DeAndrade helped guide Bridgewater State to an 18-10 record this season, the Bears making their eighth NCAA Division III Tournament appearance, but falling to Williams College.
The Bears won the MASCAC Tournament title for a seventh time behind DeAndrade. In the title game against Fitchburg, he scored 12 points and hit four clutch free throws over the final 10 seconds, while also registering five assists, three steals and three rebounds.
During the semifinal game against MCLA, DeAndrade flourished for a season-high 25 points (making eight of 14 shots from the floor with a trio of 3-pointers), while also having five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“I saw that in high school, once that you start winning, you want to go for that good stuff,” DeAndrade said, referring to winning on the road, first place finishes and playoff games. “People notice that if you put in the work, good things will happen. It’s nice to be recognized.
“There’s a lot of good talent, good athletes (in the MASCAC), it was always in the back of my mind, what is my opponent doing right now? Being prepared is what my dad (an engineer) preached. No one is lucky. If a kid wanted to go left, I’d force him right. It’s stuff like that I prepared for.”
The Bears won 15 of 17 games in one stretch this season.
“We struggled the first semester, we went into the Christmas break under .500,” DeAndrade said. “But, we pulled together, we really had to look each other in the eye, who we wanted to be. We ended up turning it around, we held each other up to a high standard.”
The “Rocky” standard.
“We spent a lot of time trying to recruit him,” Farroba recalled of trying to get DeAndrade to lengthen the list of recent Mansfield High players to become Bears. That list also includes Hornets such as Andrew Kelley, Greg Romanko and Michael Lofton.
“What was important was that he came from a winning program,” Farroba said. “He was like a coach on the floor.
“Rocky is right up there with the best players I’ve ever had.
“I couldn’t have had a better leader — he’s so grounded, so humble, he’s mature beyond his years. His parents (dad Andy and mom Madalena) have done such a wonderful job; he’s so grounded. It speaks highly of who he is as a person, why he is the person and player that he is.”
Farroba recalls asking Vaughan, if DeAndrade were to become a collegiate player, what skill sets would he have to improve upon? Naturally, defense and foot speed are foremost for high school pedigrees. So DeAndrade would be in the Bridgewater State gym most mornings at 6.
“Rocky would be in there with the shooting machine before class,” said the BSU coach of 27 seasons. “He worked at every part of his game. He could hit the 3’s in transition, he’ll make the good pass, he’ll make the plays to get to the free throw line.
“He’s put in the time and received the awards for his work. When you’re best player is your hardest worker, it makes my job easier. With the other guys, all I have to do is point to Rocky. He’d be in there looking at game film, reading the scouting report — he was so conscious of opponents.”
A management major, DeAndrade is pursing career opportunities in sports marketing. At one point, he also considered himself to be a candidate for the Cape Verdean National Team, but some nagging knee injuries prompted him to rest his 5-foot-10 frame.
“My body is so beat up. I played so many minutes, but I’ll be playing in a pickup league somewhere,” DeAndrade said with a grin. “What I was proud of this year was that we had a lot of young guys (the Bears graduated six seniors). There were a lot of new pieces so I embraced that leadership role. It was a different team.
“Someone needed to guide them, so to get that (MASCAC Tournament) championship in our gym was very special.”
Farroba just hopes that there will be another Rocky coming down the road, along Route 106 to Bridgewater State, sometime soon.
“For me as a coach, you try to develop a culture, to have kids buy into it every year,” Farroba said. “With Rocky, guys liked buying into him. He’s mature beyond his years. He has the right pedigree, the attitude and the ethic — he has the package.”