SANTA BARBARA — Corey Rogers is one player who believes the game of basketball is won or lost between the ears, not between the lines on the court.
"You got to keep a good attitude," Rogers said. "You got to keep your head, keep on playing, keep on pushing. I keep the mentality that I can play with anybody. That's what I tell myself. That's the attitude a person must keep. That separates the great people from the people who just want to be good."
Rogers wants to achieve that higher level. That's why the Nogales senior spent last week at the Sportsworld Superstar basketball camp playing in front of more than 150 college recruiters. He accepted his invitation with pride.
"It's a real honor to have the scouts sit up there and watch you," Rogers said.
It can also be a nerve-racking experience for young players. The competition for prized college scholarships is fierce. There were 260 players at the Superstar camp trying to catch the attention of the coaches in the stands.
"Even the also-rans here are kids who play well," scouting adviser Don Mead said.
Becoming someone other than an also-ran is the pressure many players feel. Rogers isn't one. Yes, he wants his name to be known by scouts. But he's not going to fret about recruiters.
"I'm not looking up in the stands, seeing what they're doing," Rogers said. "And if I mess up, I don't look and see if they're scratching my name. You just got to tell yourself, 'They're up there and I'm down here and I got to play to my ability.' You can't worry about what they're thinking."
Rogers has not always possessed such a relaxed attitude on the court. He used to fear even stepping on the court with other players, much less with scouts looking on.
Children on the block would play basketball and young Corey Rogers would sit off to the side. The fear of failure keep his sneakers in the shadows of the sidelines.
"I used to rather sit down and watch because I would feel embarrassed to shoot an air ball," he said. "I would just play by myself."
Rogers' father, Bernard, finally convinced his son that he was wasting his time by just watching. The only way to improve is to make a few mistakes.
"He showed me you have to play with guys better than you in order to get better," Rogers said. "So that's what I started doing."
As Rogers grew to 6-foot-3, he discovered his confidence was growing even higher. With it went the level of his play. Success and confidence go hand in hand.
"A player needs confidence," Rogers said. "If you don't have it, you can't be sure of yourself. You can't play basketball and be a negative thinker."
Most scouts are not sure what to think of Rogers. His game is still maturing.
"He's hard to judge yet," Mead said. "He's a real good athlete (who) could develop into a Division I player. He needs to work on several aspects of his game, but he could develop."
Rogers understands the limits of what he can and can't do on the floor. He shies from trying to overstep his ability as a point guard.
"Some people can do more things in the air and create," Rogers said. "Me, I have a floor game, I'm not a leaper type. My game is basically on the floor. I'm better off just playing my game.
"I don't think recruiters like the showy Hollywood type of player anyway. Sooner or
later, that person won't put out. I don't try the flashy stuff. I just go with the flow and do what needs to be done."
Working on his mental approach to basketball is not something Rogers needs to do. He carries a cool air of confidence that doesn't come across as cockiness. He just fully understands how a player needs to look at the game.
"Basketball is an up-and-down game," Rogers said. "Some guys try so hard not to mess up that they do mess up. They get so down on themselves. You have to always think positive, work one step harder than hard and just keep your head."
Rogers hopes his hard work pays off in the form of a college scholarship. That's why he was at the Superstar camp trying to impress recruiters. He's confident his mental approach will overcome any physical weaknesses in his game.
"I think if a kid plays hard then eventually he will get noticed," Rogers said. "Look at John Stockton (Gonzaga and the Utah Jazz). Nobody knew him, but now everybody knows his name. He showed the world he can play with the best. Hard work pays off in the end. You just work hard at your game and eventually you will be discovered."
Corey Rogers doesn't need to be discovered by the world. He'll settle for a college recruiter.