High School Sports

Two-sport star propels Lexington to state semis

Lexington High School's Shaq Roland dunks the ball to the excitement of the home team fans. Shaq Roland hit two free throws with .09 remaining in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, and Lexington took control in the extra session to beat Berkeley 91-74 on Saturday in the second round of the Class 4A state boys basketball playoffs.
Lexington High School's Shaq Roland dunks the ball to the excitement of the home team fans. Shaq Roland hit two free throws with .09 remaining in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, and Lexington took control in the extra session to beat Berkeley 91-74 on Saturday in the second round of the Class 4A state boys basketball playoffs. Special to The State

Shaq Roland's got the name. And he's got the game.

With a first name that conjures images of basketball dominance, Roland has turned into Lexington High's version of Superman by displaying the kind of athletic ability that has major-college coaches in two sports checking him out.

After a football season during which he compiled 2,000 yards of total offense, the sophomore has keyed a deep playoff run in basketball for the Wildcats, who play defending state champion Goose Creek tonight in the Class 4A semifinals at The Citadel.

Lexington basketball coach Bailey Harris continues to be amazed by the advanced play of Roland - also born "Shaquille."

"He plays like an upperclassman, and he did so as a freshman, when he had clutch games and clutch baskets," Harris said. "This year he's starting alongside four seniors, and he's still making clutch baskets."

At no time was his play more clutch than in last weekend's 91-74 overtime victory against Berkeley, when he had 34 points, 12 rebounds and five assists while going against USC signee Bruce Ellington, one of the nation's top high school guards.

Roland made 15 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, including two with 0.9 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

"The bigger the game and the better the competition, the better he plays," said Harris, who has won two state titles in 23 seasons at Lexington.

On a squad with seven seniors and seven sophomores, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Roland plays with senior savvy and sophomore exuberance. He is averaging a team-high 19 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Wildcats (24-5), who won Region 5-4A then grabbed three consecutive playoff victories.

Roland received all-state honors and was named region player of the year.

But ask him what he likes best about the game, and he doesn't talk about his high-flying dunks, his twisting drives, his rebounds or his pressure defense.

"I'm just trying to create shots for the other people," said Roland, who loves to penetrate and kick out the ball to senior sharpshooters David Burns and Corey Hendren.

Harris called Roland's unselfishness the big reason the team's seniors have no problem with him getting the headlines.

"From Day One, the upperclassmen enjoyed playing with him because he's so team-oriented. They wanted him on the floor. I don't see any jealousy," Harris said. "He's not in it for Shaq, he's in it for the team. The best thing is he's willing to do whatever it takes for his team, whether it's rebounding or defending. He makes everyone else better."

Roland has earned the respect of teammates for being coachable and outgoing. It probably has helped that senior starter Adrian Wigfall is his half-brother.

"The first day he stepped on the court, we knew he could play," said Matt Jergenson, a 6-foot-8 senior center. "The seniors have mentored these younger guys, and we've helped Shaq. If I make a suggestion, he'll take it to heart. But he has taught us a lot, too. He goes out there and has fun, so we also go out there and have fun."

The enjoyment of competing is what drives Roland to excel in basketball and football, although Harris must sweat out his star player making it though football season intact. Roland separated a shoulder at the end of this past football season that forced him to miss the first seven basketball games.

"He really likes them both. If that's what you want to do and you love it, you should do it," Harris said. "He loves to compete."

Roland enjoys both sports and remains uncertain which he will choose in college. USC basketball coach Darrin Horn has watched Lexington's past two games.

"I like them equally," Roland said. "I could see myself playing both in college, but I know I'll have to decide."

For now his focus is on basketball, and he feels confident heading into the Goose Creek game.

"It's a big game, but I think we've got it," he said.

And he's got the game to help get it done.

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