Hometown Hero: Mitch Rolls

Brandon NealCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2008

For a sufficient amount of promising basketball players around the world, the sport demands more than just a workout routine and basketball skills.  It also asks for determination, confidence, and the will to win.  In fact, there are instances where that player pushes to be the best he or she can be, sliding the game to the top of their list of priorities, and never giving up until they achieve their own goals and, ultimately, greatness.

In the smallest of worlds, Mitch Rolls fits the mold quite well.

After a semi-successful season where he averaged 18 points, five rebounds, over five assists, and almost four steals a game (semi-successful due to the lack of a state championship, of course), Rolls decided to travel over 1,700 miles to Pittsfield, Maine, to attend Maine Central Institute, but for anyone who has never watched Rolls play, you would have to wonder why.  Unfortunately, Mitch suffered from what most should call Al Jefferson syndrome: small town, small name, big dreams.  Jefferson, who played his high school basketball in Prentiss, Mississippi (with a population struggling to reach a couple thousand), simply dominated the basketball scene, but 14 other NBA teams couldn't imagine drafting a player who most said took advantage of the lack of competition around him.

While Rolls isn't averaging 42 points per game and grabbing double-digit rebounds, his contributions may have been overlooked, especially by Florida State, who contacted Rolls and eventually ran out of scholarships for their recruits.  For the small town of Coffeyville, Kansas, Mitch Rolls proved to not only be arguably the best player in the last few years, but also a school hero.

A few days before the first week of practice, Mitch was involved in a car accident, killing one of his good friends and breaking his neck.  For eight weeks, Rolls sit out and watched his squad turn in a 1-5 record, struggling without their starting point guard.  After getting his doctor's release, he was brought off the bench in the second quarter of the next game, where the crowd buried him in cheers.  For Rolls, it was one of the greatest moments of his life.

"The crowd went crazy, showing their support for my situation, which gave me goosebumps," Rolls said.  "The first two times I touched the ball, I shot two threes and made them both.  It was one really good moment after all of those weeks of being depressed about my friend and not getting to play."

The students couldn't be happier for Rolls or their team, which went on a twelve-game win streak and finished the season 14-10 with Mitch in the lineup, including a game where Rolls tallied 36 points, four assists and three steals in what he considers his best performance as a high school senior.

Before the heroics and his high school career, there was the young Mitch Rolls, who started dribbling at the age of four years, while his father, who he considers his biggest role model, declined to buy him a basketball goal until he learned to dribble with both hands.  He even produced in middle school and junior high: as an eighth grader, Rolls turned in a 47-point beatdown, including a string of 13 threes out of 16 attempts, in an AAU tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Rolls' strengths definitely outweigh his weaknesses.  His ball-handling and mid-range game are nothing short of excellent for a college freshman.  However, his humor and modesty are just as impressive.

"My weaknesses are just like most white boys," Rolls joked.  "It's my speed and quickness, at times.  It's not that bad, but I wish I was faster.  Along with my weight, those two are what I've been working on over the summer."

Rolls would like to attend Wichita State or Gonzaga, and his favorite professional teams to follow are the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Hornets, and the Phoenix Suns, all with excellent guard play.  Basketball is definitely in his blood.

"Basketball is my first love, and it takes away my stress. It gives me a lot of confidence in daily life, and I'm hoping it takes me to a Division 1 college and possibly to any level above that," Rolls said.  "I see basketball in my future, for playing or coaching, so I'd have to say basketball is the single most important thing in my life besides my family."