Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Jacqueline Carrillo/The Collegian
Rod Higgins smiles mid-court during jersey retirement at the Save Mart Center on Feb. 24.

Bulldog legend Rod Higgins has jersey retired

1,402 points and 602 rebounds and post season appearances is what Rod Higgins did during his time as a Bulldog.

Fresno State retired Higgins’ jersey at mid-court during halftime of the Fresno State and San Diego State men’s basketball game on Feb. 24.

“Basketball teaches you so much as a human being and life problems so coming to Fresno State was the best thing that could happen to me,” Higgins said moments before getting his No. 22 jersey retired.

Higgins played for the ‘Dogs from 1978-82 under the direction of Boyd Grant, the all-time winningest coach at Fresno State.

He was able to lead the Bulldogs to two Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA) titles and two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 1981 and 1982, with the ‘81 run being the first appearance in program history.

Higgins was also a two-time All-American and lives in the record book for most consecutive number of free throws made with 28.

In 1982, the ‘Dogs made it to the Sweet 16 round and finished ranked No. 11 in the nation by the Associated Press.

Before the Save Mart Center was the home of Bulldog basketball, the games would take place eight miles away from campus at the Selland Arena.

This is where Higgins led his team and left a mark on the basketball culture in the Valley by driving in the attendance factor, leading to an expansion project that took the Selland Arena from 6,000 seats to over 10,000.

After the 1982 season, Higgins decided to make the jump to the professional league and declare for the NBA Draft.

He was selected as the No. 31 pick by the Chicago Bulls where he spent three seasons. He played in the NBA for 13 total seasons, playing for seven different teams but spending seven in the Bay with the Golden State Warriors.

After finishing his playing career, Higgins stuck in the NBA, working as a scout and assistant coach.

Oakland seemed to be a good fit for Higgins as he became the general manager for the Warriors in 2004, making him the first Bulldog to ever do that.

He continued to work as an NBA executive for over 20 years, holding different titles such as vice president of basketball operations for the Atlanta Hawks.

Higgins shared what he felt when he was told that his jersey was getting retired.

“When I got the call from Terry Tumey one morning it was such an exciting time. Mixed emotions and joy, I went and told my wife and then I called both of my boys. So it’s an exciting time for our family,” he said.

Rod Higgins jersey hanging in the rafters at the Save Mart Center on Feb. 24. (Jacqueline Carrillo)

Higgins’ family joined him on the court during the ceremony and sat courtside during the game.

His connection to the Central Valley runs deep and has been giving back to Fresno since the beginning of his career.

His most notable contributions were his annual basketball camps that took place from (year). He, along with former Bulldog teammates, Tyrone Bradley and Bobby Anderson put on a huge camp for kids of the Valley.

Playing with the Bulls is where he met and befriended six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan. This friendship led the biggest name in basketball to make a yearly appearance in Fresno.

Justin Hutson, current head coach for the Bulldog men’s basketball team, talked about his personal encounter with Higgins way before Fresno State.

“I recruited Rod’s kids when I was at Cal Poly when I first got into college coaching,” Hutson said. “So I got a chance to know him and his family and his sons and wonderful family. Wonderful tradition. It was good to see those guys back. It was nice to see that type of crowd.”

The 6,452 attendees counted down from three to reveal Higgins’ number up in the rafters. Once the poster unraveled, everyone shouted “twenty-two,” officially cementing his name and number in Bulldog basketball forever.

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About the Contributor
Valentina Saldaña
Valentina Saldaña, Managing Editor
Valentina Saldaña is the Managing Editor for The Collegian and a junior at Fresno State. She started working for The Collegian in 2023 as the Sports Editor. Valentina is a Broadcast Journalism major and Philosophy minor and plans to pursue a career as a sports sideline reporter after college.  
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