VAUGHT: Rondo has passion for the game

Phil Martelli didn't need long to know that basketball was important to Rajon Rondo and that he had a passion for the game that not every college player possesses.

"The first thing he did was ask me what he has to do to make the team. Obviously, making this team is important to him," Martelli said from Dallas where tryouts are being held to pick the 12-player team that will represent the United States in the Under 21 World Championship in Argentina next month. "That feeling has to be prevalent among the guys selected. They've got to be driven or it won't be worth it for them or the staff. Memories can be for a lifetime, but one guy could make it a downer for everyone. You have to fit this team. He certainly has done nothing but exemplify all the good in the Kentucky basketball."

Rondo says he's always been a student of the game. He likes watching other teams play to see what he can learn. "My game can always get better by just watching other people play. I watch games no matter whether we are going to play a team or not. You can always learn something. That's why I really like to watch teams from other parts of the country," Rondo said.

"I think I have a great feel for the game. I watch players on TV to see what they do best and where they can score from. I try to learn something about every player I watch just in case I play against that player. Plus, it also helps you improve your own game."

Before he left Lexington for Dallas earlier this week, Rondo had been pushing himself to make 300 shots daily. He's shooting from 3-point range, where he was just 10-for-33 last season. He's shooting free throws, where he hit just 58.3 percent last season. He's also continuing to work on his mid-range jump shot.

"Sometimes I can get a manager to rebound, but it's basically just going and shooting. Sometimes I film myself doing the different drills so I can watch what I am doing," he said. "I don't know if I'll really be able to gauge on this team if my shooting has really improved. That will all really start with the first game of our season. But I do know I am shooting, and making, more shots. My shot feels goods. If I make the team, hopefully I will get a chance to show my shot off a little.

"But I know just making this team will make me a better player because the more you play, the better you get. I want to represent my country and make everyone in Kentucky proud of me. Being on this team means a lot to me."

Martelli knows. "You can just sense the passion some players have for the game. He has that passion and that's something I really, really like," the coach said. "Plus, he's a hard worker. He soaks up everything you tell him. I really like that, too."

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