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From a benchwarmer to a team leader, Jordan Roland’s transformation is complete

The transfer from George Washington is averaging 34 points through four games this season.

NCAA Basketball: Northeastern at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In an era of one and done players, it can be tough to find examples of growth and development over a four-year college career. As a freshman at George Washington in 2016, Jordan Roland played so few minutes that you could count his average playing time on one hand and his scoring average on one finger.

Fast forward to November 2019 and you’ll see the same player going for 39 in Northeastern’s opening game against Boston University and a whopping 42 against Harvard the following game. Like every good story, Roland’s basketball one has had its ups and downs, twists and turns, but now he is looking to be the next great leader for head coach Bill Coen and the Northeastern Huskies.

After his sophomore year at GW, Roland was in a tough spot. Having barely played as a freshman and only getting sporadic minutes off the bench in his second year, Roland made the decision to transfer to Northeastern prior to the 2017-18 season. After not getting Roland to campus during his high school recruiting period, Coen was going to make sure he didn’t miss his target again.

“We’ve had a lot of success with transfer students and Jordan is another example of that,” he said. “He attacked the sit-out year.”

While the sit-out rule for college basketball transfers may seem unfair to some, Roland believes it was crucial in his development.

“I think it was huge,” he said. “I think I really improved that year. My freshman year I didn’t play, which was hard. My sophomore year, my minutes were pretty inconsistent, which I feel like was almost more frustrating. To get a year to decompress and focus on myself and get better was huge.”

That year, Roland focused on gaining some weight and adjusting to Coen’s offensive schemes.

“We play a ball screen motion offense and all of our perimeter players in a ball screen,” Coen said. “It’s a different skill set, so we wanted him to grow in that area. You have to be well trained in ball screen usage, so that’s ball handling, reading the defense, seeing who is helping the helper. It takes a while to develop that kind of skill set and vision.”

After a year away from game action, Roland came out ready to play last year.

In Roland’s first season with Northeastern, he saw himself as a piece in a potent Northeastern offense.

“It really helped that I was just one piece to add to a team that was really good the year before,” Roland said. “We were returning all the same guys. I felt like everyone knew their role, and I just had to find out where my niche was going to be.”

For Roland, he saw his spot on last year’s team as a guy to help space the floor for Vasa Pusica and be a good shooter that surrounded an excellent point guard.

As Roland joked, he was there to “simply not mess things up.”

However, when Pusica might not have had his A-Game Roland was ready to take on some more of the offensive load.

This year, Roland is playing a different role, growing from the freshman who averaged five minutes a game at GW to being a senior leader expected to shoulder the load early on.

“I feel like me being one of the more experienced guys on the team, that early on in the year it’s going to be on me,” he said.

For a guy who is capable of putting up 40-plus points in the game, Roland is not your typical scorer. He’s efficient. He’s quiet. He’s humble.

“Most big-time scorers are guys that want it to be about them,” Coen said. “He doesn’t love the attention, but also doesn’t shy away from the big moments.”

“I’m just not going to go out there and keep shooting until I get 40,” Roland said. “I’m getting them in the flow of an offense. I’m trying not to take too many crazy ones, and being efficient just comes from playing the right way.”

It’s this humility and leadership style that Coen hopes rubs off on Roland’s younger teammates. Coen even talks about Roland having to be a bit more selfish for the good of the team.

“Jordan scores at all three levels — above the rim, has a great mid range floater game and obviously can shoot it beyond the arc, so I think when you’re playing with a player like that and he’s not really making it about himself, but he’s stepping up and shouldering a large portion of the load, he’s leading by example and guys love playing with him,” Coen said.

In the first two weeks of the season, Roland has done just that. In the opener against Boston University, he went for 39 points in the win. If that wasn’t good enough, the next game against Harvard, Roland scored 42 points, shooting 13-19 from the field and 10-11 from the line. The 42 points broke the Northeastern scoring record held by J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis.

Will Roland maintain that scoring output? No, of course not. But through four outings, he’s had four double-digit scoring games, is shooting 48 percent from three, and is 92 percent from the line. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t get off the bench as a freshman.