Late-starter Rolle eyeing one more shot at NBA


Staff Writer

Magnum Rolle didn’t play organized basketball until his freshman year in high school.

Even so, that wasn’t a disadvantage for the 26-year-old Bahamian.

As a matter of a fact, it’s actually gave him the chance to be who he is now.

The 211-cm Rolle, who plays for the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins of the JBL, said he had played several different sports growing up, and that enabled him to develop his versatile abilities on the hardwood.

“I played everything but basketball,” Rolle said after last Sunday’s game against the Toshiba Brave Thunders in the All-Japan Championships at Yoyogi National Gymnasium. “I was an average kid having fun. Basketball was never my passion. I’d never even seen it.”

The Diamond Dolphins lost to the Aisin Sea Horses 66-55 in the semifinals of the annual tournament.

“I think playing as many sports as you can is very good for you,” said Rolle, adding that he obtained sprinting skills through track and field, leaping ability through volleyball, an hand-eye coordination through tennis, good vision through softball and agility through soccer.

Asked if he feels behind in terms of basketball knowledge since he started later than most, Rolle, a distant cousin of NFL defensive backs Antrel and Samari Rolle, disagreed.

“No, I wouldn’t say (in terms of) knowledge,” said Rolle, who was on the LSU Tigers team that advanced to the 2006 NCAA Final Four (he later transferred to Louisiana Tech University). “Because I’ve always been a good student of the game. I watch former players or the veteran players I’ve been around. And I always pick certain things of the game that I wanna learn. The only area I lack is playing experience.”

Lately Rolle has been starved of playing time. After making impressive progress during his collegiate days, Rolle was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder and was subsequently traded to the Indiana Pacers. But he wound up being waived during training camp. He later played for the Maine Red Claws in the NBA D-League before coming to Japan this season.

Rolle didn’t want to talk about the NBA too much, not wanting to disrespect or be a distraction for his current teammates at Mitsubishi, but he admitted that taking another shot at the NBA is “my realistic goal.”

His head coach, Antonio Lang, was more vocal on the matter. Lang said that Rolle’s goal is to go to the NBA and his own goal is to help him get there.

Lang said he wouldn’t mind losing one of his best players after just a year.

“Because he deserves the shot, so we’ll see next year,” said Lang, a former Duke University player. “There aren’t too many people in the world who can do what he can do.

“The things that I really respect about him is he allows me to coach him. Great players do that. Tim Duncan allows (Gregg) Popovich to coach. LeBron (James) allows Erik (Spoelstra) to coach. I’m really trying to coach him because I’m happy that I have him. But his goal is to go to the NBA. Next year, my goal is to make him go to the NBA.”

What about the distance between the United States and Japan? Wouldn’t that be a disadvantage in Rolle’s quest to get back to the NBA?

“No, it’s not,” said Lang, who described Rolle as “like a sponge,” because of his rapid growth. “It’s all about who you know. It’s all about connections. If he can play, it doesn’t matter where he’s going to play at. They’ll find him.

“He’s already on it because he played in a summer league earlier this year. He’s already on that map.”

Lang, a former NBA player himself, said what Rolle needs is to be consistently be good.

“Right now, he’s figuring himself out,” Lang said. “Another year or two, once he figures himself out, he’s already a good player, he’s going to be great.”

Mavs won’t move Dirk


Mark Cuban says he plans to keep star Dirk Nowitzki even though the Dallas Mavericks have their worst record since a few months after he bought the team in 2000.

Cuban said before Saturday night’s game against Memphis that he wanted to be clear with Nowitzki that he was committed “through thick and thin” to getting the team back in contention.

Dallas recently fell 10 games under .500 for the first time since Nowitzki’s second season in 1999-2000. Since then, the Mavericks have made the playoffs 12 straight years and won the title in 2011.