by TAIGE ADDERLEY

 

Last week a number of athletes were honored by a number of different entities – governmental and private – with a variety of accolades.

These 38 honourees included New Orleans Pelicans guard Buddy Hield, Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones, friend of the program and professional volleyball player Byron Ferguson, and a number of other Bahamian sports luminaries.

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My Cousin Byron (no relation)

One person who was not honored was professional basketball player Waltiea Rolle, a fact that she was less than impressed with. She detailed her frustration with being overlooked in a sprawling Facebook post this past weekend.

I’m not sure how Waltiea’s ramblings were received by the public but I imagine sports fans, many of whom generally demand humility from people who’ve worked their entire lives to become better at their craft than 99% of people in the world, seeing her remarks of out of line, or self-aggrandizing.  I saw her remarks as being absolutely spot on.

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Waltiea Rolle is by far one of the best basketball players The Bahamas has ever produced, accomplishing feats few Bahamian basketball players of any gender can even hope to. The fact that nobody thought to bestow any honors on her is downright disgraceful. I’m (much) worse at art that the Celebrity Artist and I can’t rent a banquet hall or hire caterers but I do have a website and a computer, so I’m going to recognize and honor Waltiea the best way I possibly can: by writing an article. This article in fact.

Waltiea Rolle was born in Nassau, Bahamas on September 11th, 1990. She grew up there eventually attending C.R. Walker high school before she transferred to Houston’s Westbury Christian where she had a standout career. Coming out of high school in 2009 she was a Second team Parade all-american, was rated the 28th best player in the country and the 9th best center by ESPN Hoops Gurlz, she was a WBCA All-American, a second team ESPNRISE all american, and her junior year she was all-state and district player of the year.

She could have probably went to college anywhere in the country but she decided to play for the University of North Carolina Tarheels. She had an immediate impact her freshman year playing 30 games starting in 15 leading the entire conference in blocks with 2.4 while averaging 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Her shadow loomed large in the paint at UNC

She built on her early success her sophomore season averaging 7.2 points to go along with 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks earning a spot on the ACC all defensive team.

She missed the first 10 games of her junior year due to the fact that she left school and her team to come back to the Bahamas and give birth to her first child, a baby girl named Carlisa. She still went back and played 20 games contributing to the tune of 3.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1 block per game. I don’t think most of you understand how hard it is to play Division I college basketball, but it’s ridiculously difficult.  There aren’t too many examples of women returning mid-season after having children and that’s for a reason. It’s damn near impossible to do, but she did it.

She was really back her senior season in 2012/2013 when she was second on the team in scoring with 11.7 points per game third in rebounds with 6.6 and first in blocked shots with 2.4.

Waltiea would go on to be drafted by the Minnesota Lynx with the 36th overall pick of the 2013 WNBA draft. She was the first Bahamian ever drafted to that league. She elected to stay in school and complete her degree in sports administration later being signed by the Seattle Storm and also played by DSK Karlin in the Czech Republic where she averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Waltiea Rolle accomplished things on the basketball court and in the classroom that no woman from the Bahamas had up to that point.  And while she is an amazing basketball player, I find her to be downright inspirational. Having the physical and mental toughness and sense of commitment to rejoin her team mid-season after having a child, having the foresight to skip out on the WNBA to finish her degree. She’s not only a hero because of her exploits on the court, she’s a great example of a person who experienced a detour in life, but had the fortitude to stay the course and accomplish the goals she set for herself.  Her story is one that needs to be told.

The way she’s being treated (or rather not treated) makes one think that the powers that be would rather forget that she exists.  There is no plaque in her honor in front of the sports center, no picture of her in the airport, no highway or stadium or court named after her. She hasn’t been invited to a fancy banquet where a politician wearing an ill-fitting suit in the 95 degree summer heat talks for too damn long, she won’t be invited to an awards show where instagram famous faux celebrities dress up fancy and give themselves awards. But people like us who exactly how groundbreaking her career was and is know exactly what she means to basketball in this country.

To Waltiea:

We haven’t forgotten about you, and we aren’t going to let them either. We know all of the wonderful things you’ve accomplished and all the contributions you’ve made to further women’s basketball in The Bahamas.

Thank you.

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