Photo: Joey Rodriguez (left) and VCU coach Shaka Smart
Star guard for Virginia Commonwealth University’s basketball team, Joey Rodriguez is always being recognized, but at the 8th annual gala at the Virginia Science Museum he wasn’t just receiving praise for helping his team win the NCAA Southwest regional title, earning them a shot in the Final Four.
Rodriguez, 21, received the Latino Impacto Award from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for his making a difference in the Latino community. Basketball has long been a sport dominated by African-American and white players, so for young Latinos to see Rodriguez and the VCU Rams garner a spot in the NCAA Final Four, it’s a real treat.
The Chamber’s founder and president, Michel Zajur, said the 5’10 guard has made a big impact and is a great role model for young Latinos, especially for those that think they can’t succeed in basketball, or anything for that matter.
Rodriguez said he wants Latino children to believe in themselves. He and his brother are the first generation of his family to graduate from college. Joey, a criminal justice major, will graduate from VCU in May.
And the accolades don’t stop there.
President Obama, a known NCAA basketball fan, has invited Rodriguez to the White House for dinner. He will be a guest at the White House’s Cinco de Mayo dinner, on May 5th (of course).
“I’m blown away by this and really can’t believe it,” said the humbled Latino. “This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m truly honored. It’s really a testament to all my teammates and the way we pushed each other to reach goals that only we thought were possible. The past month is something that I’ll never, ever forget.”