SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Waltia Rolle looked around Nassau, the biggest city in the Bahamas, and didn't see much -- even at age 14.
So when Frank Rutherford, who had helped male basketball players from the Bahamas relocate to Texas, offered her the chance to come to America, she decided she had to take him up on it.
"I wanted to be the first one in my family to go to college," the slender 6-foot-5 post says. "There wasn't much happening where I lived. People just hung out."
Ranked No. 17 in the 2009 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, Rolle has been reported to have committed to North Carolina, but she says the reports are unfounded. She'd never played basketball, but Rolle headed off to Westbury Christian High School in Houston to learn a new game, and live a new life.
"I missed my family," she says. "A lot. But I knew I had to do it."
Now playing with the Cy-Fair Houstonains at the Showtime Nationals, Rolle also had to deal with an entirely new culture. Her summer coach, and now her guardian, Phyllis Dallas, says "When she got here, I could barely understand her. I'd have to say, 'Slow down, Waltia, slow down.' She doesn't have an accent now, unless she goes back to the Bahamas. If she's there two weeks, you can hear it when she comes back." In the spring, Rolle moved in with the Dallas family -- which includes Phyllis' son, who also goes to Westbury Christian -- in the spring.
"School was a struggle for her at first," says Dallas, "but she's on the honor roll now."
Rolle still isn't completely a Texan ("I miss everything" about the Bahamas, she says), but she's happy living with the Dallas family.
"She's been like a mom to me," Rolle about says Dallas. And Dallas, who played at Louisville, has helped her learn the game.
"We work out about four times a week" in the offseason," says Rolle, who had not played basketball at all growing up, despite always being tall. "I liked to watch it," she says, "but I never wanted to play it."
Now, she's on the verge of getting a scholarship to play the game, even though she admits she's still learning. "Ballhandling," she laughs. "It's terrible."
But Rolle sees the floor well, has good hands and is surprisingly agile for her size. She still gets pushed around a bit under the basket, but she's adjusting all the time. "
I'm getting better and better," she says, and college coaches have noticed. She's looking at North Carolina, Louisville and Maryland at this point, and admits it's hard to narrow it down. "I don't want to disappoint anyone," she says.
She definitely doesn't want to disappoint her Westbury Christian teammates. The Wildcats went 28-7 last season and won two 5A playoff games -- and have almost everyone back. Of course, the key piece is Rolle, who averaged 18.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg and 3.0 bpg last season. And remember, that was only her second year of basketball.
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Clay Kallam is a contributor to ESPN HoopGurlz. He is the founder of Full Court Press, an online magazine devoted to women's basketball; the author of "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" and a voter for several national awards, including McDonald's and Parade All-Americans and the Wooden Award.