Q&A with Fresno State basketball commit Lazaro Rojas

Lazaro Rojas, a 6-foot-11 and 235-pound forward from Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, by way of Score Academy in Naples, Florida, signed a Letter of Intent to Fresno State this week. Rojas discussed his background, his decision to sign with the Bulldogs and what you can expect to see from him on the court in 2016-17.

Question, Could you please explain your background?

Answer, Lazaro Rojas: I was born in Brazil, state of Bahia, son of a single mother, I was raised tough, didn’t meet my dad until I was 12. Since I met him, we got along very well and he has (been) my mentor since then.

When I was 14, I moved to Italy with my Mom due to a job opportunity for her, that’s when I started playing basketball for the local city team. I was already taller than the other kids of my age.

In late 2014 I went to Brazil on a vacation to visit my Dad and ended up being recruited by a U19 team in Sao Paulo which made me move back to Brazil to play basketball. It was a good decision because we ended up being state champions in 2015 and it was a great experience for me.

After the season was over, we were going into a long offseason during Brazil’s summer time. A recruiter from Score Academy, who was following my development, invited me to spend 4 months in Naples, FL to train and reinforce their squad in some tournament games… I went to Naples in late November 2015 and went back home on late March, 2016.     

Q: What was your experience of attending the Score Academy?

A: It was a great experience, I could develop my game going head-to-head with players faster and stronger than me and I also had enough exposure to draw attention from college coaches and recruiters from all over the country.

Q: Do you have four years of college eligibility?

A: For the best of my knowledge, yes, I have four years.

Q: How did Fresno State first get in contact with you? How long had you been talking with them and which coach have you talked to the most?

A: Coach Terry saw me playing on a video that Score Academy produced on my games and I figure it caught his attention. Coach Terry is probably the one my Dad and I talked to the most, he was always checking on me to make sure he could answer all my expectations and doubts about going to FSU.    

Q: Did you have scholarship offers from any other schools or interest from any other schools?

A: Yes I did, from other 6 or 7 Division 1 schools. But if you don’t mind I rather not mention them at this moment, it belongs to the past and I am now 100% focused on Fresno State.

Q: What were the top reasons you picked Fresno State?

A: The basketball program seemed very well structured and showed a good progress in the recent years.I liked a lot the way Coach Terry approaches all matters. His speech is always very positive, objective and clear.The Staff also embraced me in a very positive way, showing a lot of engagement with the program and all the athletes.

During my visit I could really see and feel myself  being part of the program and living in Fresno. The energy I felt by the court while I was watching a practice session was amazing.

Q: What else did you like about your visit?

A: The trip was great, Fresno State had just won the conference and they were getting ready to the NCAA tournament. The atmosphere at the whole school was great, I enjoyed very much being there at that special moment for the school.   

Q: What are your strengths in basketball, how would you describe your style of play and what you like to do on the court?

A: I’m a big guy who can help the team in a variety of ways on the court, score, rebound, pass. I try to learn and execute all fundaments of the game. I like to be a team player, I love to draw the defense on me and find an open man on the court.  

Q: What have the Fresno State coaches told you about what your role will be on the team next year?

A: They told me I can help the team by playing as a stretch 4, which I like being a stretch 4 very much so.

Rodney Terry has previously recruited three foreign-born players in his tenure at Fresno State, but only one from outside of North America. After Rojas’s signing, the Bulldogs are also expected to have Australian brothers William and Darryl McDowell-White join the 2016-17 Fresno State team as well.

Here are the international players to suit up for the Fresno State men’s basketball team since the turn of the century.

Emmanuel Owootoah, 2013-15, Canada

Braeden Anderson, 2012-15, Canada

Grant Hefing, 2011-12, China

Ned Golubovic, 2007-11 Serbia

James Tchana, 2005-08, Cameroon

Renato Cesar, 2005-07, Brazil

Hector Hernandez, 2004-07, Mexico

Mustafa Al-Sayyad, 2000-05, Sudan

Francis Koffi, 2003-04, France

Andrea Bona, 1998-2001, Rome

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