by Steve Weinman, NBA D-League.com
At age 16, he had never touched a basketball. Eight years later, he has NBA training camp experience and might be the steal of the 2010 D-League Draft.
“It was fate, really,” Magnum Rolle said, “I started playing around 10 th grade. I just happened to run across my high school’s coach, and as they say, the story just took off from there.”
That first week, the Grand Bahamian native, whom the Maine Red Claws recently selected third overall in the D-League draft, found even the simplest facets of the game to be looming challenges.
“Everything was hard,” he said. “I never could have dribbled a ball before I met Coach. I had no interest in the game.”
That feeling didn’t last long. According to Rolle, it took a week to fall in love with the game. He had competed in track and field and played volleyball, but he embraced the challenge of a new game he had to work at to be successful.
Growing to fill out a 6-foot-11, 240-pound frame didn’t hurt either. After high school, Rolle attended Louisiana State University for two years before transferring, red-shirting for a year and playing his final two seasons at Louisiana Tech. It was at Tech that he blossomed as a defender, earning WAC All-Defensive Team selections both years. Despite playing only his last two campaigns at the school, Rolle ranks third in Bulldogs history with 123 blocked shots. He also posted nearly 14 points and better than eight rebounds per game as a senior.
Rolle took part in two drafts this year, becoming the first Grand Bahamian drafted in the NBA (51 st by Oklahoma City) before being traded to Indiana, making it to final cuts at Pacers training camp and then joining the Red Claws as their first-round selection in the D-League Draft.
For the Claws, Rolle’s potential to be an impact defensive presence made him a must-pick.
“The Charlotte Bobcats sent Alexis Ajinca to us for a large part of the season,” Jennings said of the Claws’ defense in 2009-10. “What we saw with having that kind of size was just game-altering. Teams found it very difficult to drive against us. Our perimeter defense became better because our wing players were confident they had a player behind them who could protect the rim as well.”
Jennings expects to see the same effect with Rolle, whom he believes has the greatest upside of any player in the draft.
“Unfortunately,” a rueful Jennings said, “We probably won’t have him around for a long time because he is an obvious call-up candidate. He’s 6-11 with long arms and he runs the floor as well as any wing player. He’s got great hands for a big man, catches the ball on the run and has the ability to do so many different things.”
Both player and GM stressed that building strength is the primary individual goal for the season. Rolle will be working with the coaching staff on positioning in his post-up game and improving his lower body strength to match his speed and leaping ability.
While he plans to use his versatile game to put himself in scouts’ minds this season, Rolle’s name alone has already caught the attention of many observers - and for good reason. He confirmed what his Wikipedia page states: that he was named for Tom Selleck’s character in the ‘80s television series Magnum P.I.
“My mom was a big fan,” Rolle explained.
The man with the intriguing name and developing game will make his D-League debut at home against Austin on November 19.