HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Junior guard Gabe Rogers entered the game at the 11:13 mark of the first half against Arizona State. He was expected to be out up to four months after dislocating his shoulder and having surgery on Oct. 9. His return was a big boost to the Lumberjacks and he would have a big impact before the final buzzer.
"Gabe came in two days after picking up a basketball for the first time," said junior Stallon Saldivar, who hit the game winner for the Lumberjacks. "I have to give him a lot of credit."
Rogers practiced for the first time Thursday but whether he would make his return against the Sun Devils was to be decided by the coaches.
It did not take long for Interim Head Coach Dave Brown to turn to Rogers to enter the game.
Rogers missed three shots in the first half and his first five overall. But despite limited practice over the last two months, Rogers kept the faith.
"I just didn't make shots," said Rogers. "I have to get used to playing with this brace. It was not jitters. I just didn't make shots. In the last three minutes the shots were falling."
Rogers made two key baskets in the final two minutes to keep the Lumberjacks in striking distance and then assisted on the final three-pointer by Saldivar that won the game with 0.6 seconds left in the game. He finished with four points and four assists in 15 minutes off the bench.
"We can put our names in the history books," said Rogers. "We beat a Pac-12 team and that has not been done in quite some time. With Coach Brown it is allowing people to free up. But Coach Adras' principles are still with us."
Rogers is quick to thank the Athletic Training staff for his quick recover from surgery that allowed him to get back on the court.
"Getting back this early is just a testament to how great our training staff is," said Rogers. "They worked me out so hard. I just thank God for (assistant athletic trainer) Sarah Shute and all that she has done for me."
The original goal was to return before the start of the Big Sky Conference play but the Arizona State game was gravy for Rogers. Being able to play in his home state against Sam Houston State on Tuesday is an early present for Rogers, the basketball program and his whole family.
"It is big time," said Rogers of playing at Sam Houston Tuesday 40 minutes from his home in Houston. "When I told my parents and my brothers that I could be playing, they were extremely happy. I can't wait to go there. I hope that we get the win and we grow from this victory."
Sam Houston is 3-6 after a 53-50 loss to North Texas on Saturday.
"We take them one at a time," said Interim Head Coach Dave Brown. "One of our messages that we talked to our young men about in our pregame conference was that winning is not a one time thing. It's an all time thing. We've got a lot of work to do. There's a lot of effort that was expounded. We have another game before the holidays. We have to fly to San Houston. It's going to be a challenge to get them up and we are going to try to get them focused and do the things that we expect to happen as a group of coaches."
Rogers was glad to be part of the win against the Sun Devils but feels even better about being back full time.
"This is probably the best feeling I have had in a while.," said Rogers "At first me being cleared it was the best feeling of my life but then in the first game I played we pulled out a great win. I am happy."
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Tuesday night. The game can be heard on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker in Flagstaff, Prescott and Sedona and online via The Big Talker website and their mobile app.