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January 16, 2013

Roland playing for another winner at Utah State

New Albany grad is a reserve guard for 14-1 Utah State

LOGAN, Utah — TeNale Roland knows a thing or two about being on winning basketball teams.

During his three years as a standout guard on the New Albany High School boys’ varsity squad, the Bulldogs compiled a 70-6 record, won three outright Hoosier Hills Conference championships and captured three Class 4A sectional titles and one regional crown.

During his final two years at NAHS (2007-08 and 2008-09), Roland helped the Bulldogs post an undefeated regular-season record in each season.

Last year as a member of the Rend Lake College men’s basketball team from Ina, Ill., the Warriors won the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Region 24 championship and earned a berth in the NJCAA Division II Championships despite a 17-16 record.

Now, Roland is helping the Utah State Aggies have a successful campaign. Roland, who is a junior reserve guard, and his Utah State teammates are currently 14-1 overall and in a first-place tie with Louisiana Tech in the Western Athletic Conference with a 5-0 league mark.

Roland has seen action in each of the Aggies’ 15 games this season, starting in six of them. The 6-foot-1 guard is averaging about 18.6 minutes per contest, while scoring 3.9 points a game and distributing 2.4 assists a clip.

“It’s going good. We have a good team,” Roland said in a recent phone interview. “We work hard in practice and we’re getting better and better every day. We’re rebounding well and limiting our turnovers. We’re shooting a good percentage from the field and working hard on defense. We’re trying to play well as a team.”

The Aggies have several goals this season, which includes having a 20-win season, claiming the WAC regular-season and tournament championships and making the NCAA tournament field.

The main goal for Utah State is to win the WAC tournament, which would give the Aggies an automatic berth in the NCAA tourney.

For that to happen, Roland says his team must continue to play fundamentally sound basketball.

“We need to do what we’re doing right now,” Roland said. “Rebounding and defense are the keys and we need to limit our turnovers. If we can rebound and play defense, we can get to the NCAA tournament.”

After graduating from New Albany in 2009, Roland got a spot on the 2009-10 men’s basketball roster at Vincennes University, an NJCAA Division I school. But Roland did not play one game that season and followed that up by sitting out the entire 2010-11 campaign.

Roland transferred to Rend Lake for the 2011-12 season and did nothing but produce for the Warriors.

He averaged 20.7 points and 4.5 assists per game along with shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from 3-point range. Roland eclipsed the 30-point mark in six games, which included a career-high 45-point effort in an 80-78 loss to John A. Logan College on Jan. 25, 2012.

Roland collected two major honors for his great season. He was named the Region 24 Player of the Year and made the NJCAA Division II All-America second team.

Roland cherishes every moment during his lone year at Rend Lake.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” Roland said. “We played in a run-and-gun system and I liked the chemistry on the team. We had a good year.”

Roland is the fifth NJCAA All-American to play for the Aggies during coach Stew Morrill’s 15-year tenure at Utah State. Roland says his productivity at Rend Lake was a critical factor in him getting an athletic scholarship with the Aggies.

“It helped me a lot. I had a good year and it helped me in my recruiting,” Roland said. “In the junior college national tournament, I played against a lot of good players and that helped me to get to Utah State.”

Roland says the biggest difference between playing at the NCAA Division I level and the high school and junior college levels is the higher skill level of the players.

“You play against bigger players and quicker players,” Roland said. “In college, players one through 12 are pretty good, so you’ve got to come to play every night.”

Roland is not the only player in his family to play at the Division I level. His older brother Lamont, one of the stars on New Albany’s 1996 state runner-up team, played one season at Ball State and three years at LSU.

TeNale says his older sibling is always willing to give him advice about competing in the Division I ranks.

“I can pretty much ask him about anything,” the younger Roland said. “He just told me to stay in the gym all the time. He says you need to work at this level.”

Roland says he has changed in a couple of ways since his days at New Albany.

“I’ve gotten stronger and it’s helped me to improve my defense,” Roland said. “I’ve matured a lot and I’ve learned a lot about the game from different coaches.”

Roland says the lessons he learned while playing at New Albany under veteran head coach Jim Shannon enabled him to reach the Division I level.

“It has helped me a lot,” Roland said. “I learned a lot from that coaching staff and it has carried over to the college level.”

Along with being a Division I player and a college student, Roland is a father to his 1-year-old son, Alijah. Roland has embraced the opportunity of being a dad.

“It’s not changed me that much,” Roland said about being a father. “But it’s made me more responsible, it’s made me more mature and it’s made me grow up.”

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