It’s been a long journey for Bahamian Waltiea Rolle, all the way from H.O. Nash Junior High School to the doorsteps of the professional ranks, but now the 22-year-old college senior could say that it was all worth it.
Rolle made history for The Bahamas Monday night in Bristol, Connecticut, as she became the first Bahamian female to be drafted into the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), arguably the greatest professional league in the world for women’s basketball. Rolle, the 6’6” starting center for the University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels this past season, was taken by the Minnesota Lynx with the 36th overall pick, the final pick of this year’s WNBA Draft. Rolle was unavailable for comment yesterday, but according to reports, she is ecstatic as she is about to realize a lifelong dream.
Waltiea’s father Maxwell Rolle has always stated that his daughter would be the first Bahamian to play in the WNBA, and now that prediction is about to come to fruition. The Lynx will play their first pre-season on Saturday May 18, against the Washington Mystics in Bismarck, North Dakota, and they will play their first regular season game at home on June 1, against the Connecticut Sun.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rolle will get the opportunity to play on one of the best teams in the league, and alongside high-profile players such as Katie Smith, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore, who finished fourth in voting for the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award last season. Talented forward Augustus was fifth. With them leading the way, the Lynx advanced all the way to the WNBA Finals as the Western Conference Champions last year, but fell to former league MVP Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever in four games. They finished a league best 27-7 during the regular season last year, a season after they won the WNBA title, sweeping the Atlanta Dream three games to none.
As for Rolle and her senior season at UNC, she was second on the team in scoring, with 12.1 points per game last year. She also pulled down 6.6 rebounds per game, and swatted 2.5 shots per game as a senior. Known for her defensive prowess, Rolle earned All-ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Defensive honors for the second time this year, and her 89 blocked shots were the sixth-most in single-season school history. She also led the Tar Heels in field goal percentage this year, shooting 48.3 percent from the floor.
Rolle helped lead the Tar Heels to a 29-7 overall record, including a remarkable 17-1 record at home, a trip to the ACC Tournament final where they fell to Duke, and the No. 3 seed in the Bridgeport Region of the NCAA Tournament. During the tournament, she had a monster game against the Albany Great Danes in the opening round. She recorded 14 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and had eight blocks to lead the Tar Heels to a 59-54 win. In the second round against the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens, Rolle led the team in scoring with 23 points, and added six rebounds and six blocks, but the Tar Heels fell, 78-69.
Rolle became the 19th player in school history to be drafted into the WNBA which is entering its 17th year of play. The Lynx was the top offensive team in the league last year, averaging 86 points per game, but Rolle should be able to contribute significantly defensively.
The Lynx took Nebraska guard Lindsey Moore with their first-round draft pick, Georgetown guard Ta’Shauna ‘Sugar’ Rodgers with the 14th overall pick in the second round, and Colorado guard Chucky Jeffery with the 24th overall pick in the second round, before taking Rolle with the 36th and final pick, in the third round.