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Tulsa's Rodney Bartholomew wins D-League award, reflects on season

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Rodney Bartholomew of the Tulsa 66ers was recently named NBA Development League Performer of the Week for games played Monday, Jan. 13 – Sunday, Jan. 19.

Bartholomew, a 6-8, 235-pound forward from Indiana Tech, led Tulsa to a 2-0 record last week, including back-to-back road wins over the Bakersfield Jam and Los Angeles D-Fenders. For the week, he averaged an NBA D-League-best 32.0 points (on 68 percent shooting from the floor) to go with 16.0 rebounds.

On Jan. 18, Bartholomew scored 32 points and grabbed 17 rebounds helping the 66ers to a 114-110 win. The next night, he finished with 32 points and 15 rebounds in a 128-112 win over the D-Fenders. With the two games, Bartholomew became the first player in 66ers history to record 30 or more points and 15 or more rebounds in back-to-back games.

Bartholomew is also one of the big reasons that Tulsa has pulled down as many or more rebounds than their opponent in 11 of their past 12 games.

The honor is the first for Bartholomew, who is averaging 11.2 points and 7.9 rebounds this season. I had the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about his recent scoring surge and Tulsa’s turnaround in the standings.

Was winning the Performer of the Week Award a surprise to you?
I was definitely surprised to get the honor. My teammates kept me telling me I was going to get it, but it was still a big surprise when they actually told me I had won it.

You came from a small college that plays in the NAIA. Do you see this kind of award as a win for all of those small colleges and small-college players out there?
Absolutely. My college coach always told me he saw me as a diamond in the rough. He told me if I kept working hard and believing in myself, anything was possible. This award is proof of that.

What did you work on in the offseason to make yourself a better player?
I wanted to come into this season and help the team more than I did last year. Last year, my body was really adjusting to the game and the level of play. Every day, my confidence is getting better and higher. My teammates are putting me in a position to succeed.

Talk about how this season has turned around for you and the 66ers.
I think things are coming together for all of us. Coming into this season, we really didn’t know each other or what each of us brought to the table. Now, we know and we’re starting to pick things up on offense and be in the right spots. We’re working together as a team. On defense, the bigs are starting to pick up the defensive coverage.

Defense is always preached by the Thunder organization and part of Tulsa’s success has come from its recent rebounding dominance, right?
Yeah, that’s been great and important. Our guards are really helping out the bigs with rebounding and it’s making a difference.

When did you see things turning around for the team?
Honestly, we clicked from day 1. We started 1-11 but we weren’t losing games by that much. We were playing close games but just not able to come out on top. We all knew that we would pick up those wins sooner than later if we stood together as a group. There was never any finger-pointing. We stood together.

How do you see the rest of the season playing out?
We are all going to take things one game at a time. Whether we’re playing at home or on the road, it doesn’t matter to us. We’re starting to click and we’re going to work together. We are all focusing on our next opponent and nothing else. We can’t control anything else or what’s going to happen a week or two from now. We have to focus on the next game and nothing else.

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