Mike Roll: Better than Believed?

Many thought that when the 6-4 wing from Aliso Niguel, <b>Mike Roll</b>, committed to UCLA in November, it was a stretch. After seeing him play Thursday, you can put that thought out of your mind...

We went down to the Anaheim Convention Center yesterday to watch UCLA committed wing, Mike Roll, and his Aliso Niguel team play El Toro in the Anaheim Convention Center Classic Tournament.

We were reminded once again why summer basketball is not the best opportunity to evaluate prospects. Summer basketball is all about athleticism, getting your own shots and playing in the open court. There is very little, if any, team basketball. There are very few picks set and if you happen to be good at moving without the ball, well, have fun running around – no one is going to pass the ball when you make that great backdoor cut. Summer basketball resembles real basketball about as much as "The OC" approximates life in Orange County.

UCLA committed 2005 wing, Mike Roll.
We mention the deficiencies of summer basketball as a partial excuse for why we missed on Mike Roll. We liked the 6-4 Roll after the summer, and thought he was a high-major prospect, but we were still off in our evaluation. Roll is a very, very good basketball player. We knew he could shoot, but he's a better shooter than we realized. And he's not just a shooter – he's a scorer who can get his points in a variety of ways. He'll post up in the low-post and show you better footwork than you'll see from any current Bruin post player (yes, we know that's not saying much). He can knock down shots coming off a screen with a very quick release. Or he'll show shot, draw contact and get to the line.

If Roll were just a scorer, though, we wouldn't be all that excited about him as a prospect. What makes him unique is all the other stuff – exceptional feel for the game, very tough and competitive, great fundamentals, very good passer, plays defense with intensity and team-oriented. One scout sitting with us yesterday said, "Roll will be Ben Howland's favorite player."

We agree with that scout. Roll is reminiscent of the kind of players Bob Knight had at Indiana when they were good -- kids who played textbook basketball and were very skilled, strong and tough. Roll isn't going to show up on SportsCenter with highlight dunks. But he'll set the great pick that frees Arron Afflalo for the game-winning shot. Or, he'll set a pick for Jordan Farmar, pop out to the three-point line and knock down the game-winner himself. Roll is a flat-out winner and you can see why he wanted to play against the highest level of players at UCLA. He knew he was good enough to play at this level. And if we had seen him playing real basketball, instead of just the summer stuff, we might have realized it earlier ourselves.

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