Hakeem Rollins: Living a Montlake Dream

With the Ike Diogus and the Channing Fryes running around and dominating the posts of the Pac-10, Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar knew that he needed to find somebody who was willing to go toe-to-toe with the two big men from the state of Arizona. He found that person in the same state in Hakeem Rollins at Mesa Junior College.

With just two games under his belt for his Division I career, Rollins is already paying dividends for the 2-0 Huskies with his stellar play inside the paint and just enough offense to support his high flying teammates.

Rollins started at center for the Huskies in his debut against Portland State. Against the Vikings, the 6-7 junior scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds. He also added three blocked shots to his totals. Rollins started again Monday against UC-Riverside and turned in his best performance yet with 12 points and seven rebounds and helped the team roll to a 91-78 victory.

"I'd say I'm very happy with the way I played," said Rollins following the game "Offensively, I was confident and decisive. Rebounding wise, I could have done a better job. I could have had a double-double tonight. I kind of fell off in the second half. But overall, it was very good."

Rollins was a force to be reckoned with in the paint. His leaps over the opponents to grab rebounds from behind pretty much took a lot of people by surprise. One person who was not surprised was Romar. The Huskies head coach attributes Rollins' amazing rebounding ability to his long wingspan that can easily swoop down and pluck a ball from an unsuspecting opponent like an eagle going for lunch at the lake.

"(Rollins) has extremely long arms," said Romar. "Hakeem is 6'7", but you would think he's 6'9" because of those long arms and when you have that, you can reach over the top of someone without touching someone.

"He plays bigger than he really is."

Rollins agreed with his coach's analysis. "I think that's pretty accurate," he said. "Sometimes guys think they have an advantage over me, but then I match up with them and take shots and block shots. I match up with Anthony (Washington) and we go at it in practice all the time. We're evenly matched."

Combined with Washington and Mike Jensen, Rollins completes the trio of post players that get the majority of the minutes. With the shared play and the way they complement one another, all three have started the season strong. In the season opener, Washington had a career-high 14 points and against UC-Riverside last night, Jensen pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds in what had to have been his best game for his career.

"It's working out very well with the way we play," Rollins said of the rotation. "We run, we get up and down and we pressure. You should have a rotation where everyone is getting about 20 minutes."

Rollins said that his confidence has steadily risen with every game and that his confidence level is now as high as it was when he was dominating the JC ranks when he was averaging 24.8 points per game.

"So far the transition has been real nice," he said of his new surroundings. "I have no complaints. I'm very happy here."

Rollins was also recruited by Minnesota, Connecticut and UC-Santa Barbara, as well as other Pac-10 schools. In the end however, the Huskies beat out Minnesota for his services.

"The city had a lot to do with it," said Rollins of his decision to sign with Washington. "Especially the coaching staff and the players that were already here. Those were the three main things that attracted me."

The coaching staff at Washington was very familiar with the coaching staff at Mesa JC. Mesa JC head coach Alton Lister is a former NBA big man and knew Romar and Huskies' assistant coach Russ Schoene well enough to give Rollins a personal recommendation to play at Washington.

"Coach Lister told me that if I was going to play some place that I couldn't find a better coach than Coach Romar," Hakeem said.

With the high-tempo game the Huskies are now playing at, people can expect the Huskies to run, run, and run some more. That was definitely a factor in the final score of Monday's game.

"When everybody is playing good, that's the way we can play," said Rollins of the team's style of play.

And what does he think of this speedy style?

Rollins said with a smile, "That's one of things I was looking forward to."

Dawgman.com Top Stories