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Orange County Player of the Week : Hair-Raising Experience at Tustin : Intimidating Middleton Plays Heads Up Ball for Tillers

January 15, 1986|STEVE KRESAL

Rog Middleton, a junior forward from Tustin High school, is an intimidating player who likes to play as close to the basket as possible. As a result, he is averaging 19 points a game.

And because of his scoring, Tustin is 3-1 in the Century League, equaling last season's win total. The Tillers are 9-5 overall.

Against Santa Ana last week, Middleton scored a career-high 29 points in a 57-55 loss. He also scored 20 points and had 9 rebounds as Tustin defeated Canyon, 69-54. For his performance, he has been named The Times' Player of the Week.

Though Tustin Coach Tim O'Brien said Middleton may be the team's best outside shooter, the 6-foot 3-inch forward likes to take the ball inside the key. But going to the basket increases body contact, which Middleton enjoys.

"I just feel more comfortable inside," Middleton said.

He's also looking a lot meaner these days.

Before the season, Middleton was looking for a gimmick to strike fear into opponents.

So, he did something he wanted to do for years: He shaved his head.

Not once, but three times since October.

"I did it because I think it gives me more confidence when I play," he said. "It looks intimidating to other players, not all of them, but some.

"It's something I wanted to do since seventh grade, but my mom wouldn't let me. Finally, she said she didn't care if I did it, so I had a friend shave it for me."

Though his lack of a hairdo may scare opponents, it hardly turns a head at Tustin.

"It's just Rog," O'Brien said. "He does it every now and then."

Middleton has established a reputation on offense, but he and his coach know that his defense needs improvement.

"I really need to work on my defense," Middleton said, who was nicknamed Rog by his parents. "Everything about it, from blocking out for rebounds to denying the ball to one-on-one. I just need to work."

Said O'Brien: "You have to understand, what Roger does on offense, he does very well. He just needs a lot of work to become a complete player. He's starting to realize it and is improving with work."

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