UAA senior Taylor Rohde has been no stranger to personal accolades since he arrived on campus last year. The 6’9” center has literally towered over all others, collecting awards left and right at both a league and West Region level.
Pun intended: he has been the definition of a big fish in a little pond.
And now, he just may have reeled in the biggest this school has ever seen in any individual athlete.
On March 28, Rohde was named National Player of the Year by the Division II Basketball publication and became the first ever Seawolf in any sport to claim that level of notoriety.
“It was shock to me, I didn’t even think or know that there were any more awards,” Rohde said. “But when I got the news, I was definitely happy and very thankful.”
The way in which he received the news may have provided him even more shock as it came while he was waking up to greet the world.
“Actually, I had a text from Nate (Sagan, UAA Sports Information Director) when I woke up one morning telling me the news,” Rohde said with a laugh. “Yeah, that’s how.”
In his short time in the green and gold, Rohde quickly solidified himself as one of the best in UAA Men’s Basketball history. He etched his name in to the record books as 10th in scoring average (17.9 ppg), 11th in points (1,143), 7th in double-doubles (13), 11th in rebounding (463), and 11th in games started (63) in just two years time.
This season alone, Rohde, who hails from Phoenix, Arizona, scored double figures in 26 of his 30 games this season while shooting 50 percent or better in 25 of the last 26 games for UAA. On 12 different occasions, he scored 25 or more points, four of which were 30 or more points.
Despite knowing the talent Rohde was bringing to Anchorage when he transferred from Arizona State, a Division I program, two seasons ago, no one could have foreseen it working out this well.
“Although it wasn’t a goal of his when he first got here, I think the award verifies his decision to come here,” said UAA Head Coach Rusty Osborne when asked about predicting Rohde’s career upon first arrival to the program. “We got to reap the benefits as a team also while he was here, winning 47 games in two years.
“It was a win-win situation for him and us.”
Nothing was easily earned. In fact, when Rohde made his decision to play for UAA, it came after two years of playing as a reserve player for the Sun Devils. This came on the heels of Rohde being the Phoenix High School Player of the Year in 2008 after starring for Pinnacle High School.
“We wanted to make sure we tempered expectations early,” Osborne said. “You don’t just spend two years not doing something and then become a great player again, it takes time to get back in a rhythm and accept a new role.”
Once settled in, Rohde rediscovered his confidence and began playing at level that few could match. On top of the National Player of the Year Award, Rohde earned three other All-American honors as well as GNAC and West Region Player of the Year accolades.
However, it’s that national award that will stand above the rest.
“Well, it’s just huge,” said UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb. “It’s a first in school history and it couldn’t have happened to a better person or someone with higher character than Taylor. He was a Seawolf the first day he got here and he’ll be a Seawolf the rest of his life.
“This is just off the charts.”
The only thing that remains to be seen is where Rohde will begin his “play-for-pay” career.
“Right now i’m exploring all of my options and looking to maybe get invited to some NBA camps even,” Rohde said. “Whatever opportunities I get, i’m going to feel blessed by it and i’m going to make the best of it.”
According to Osborne, it’s not a question of “if” he plays pro ball, but where he plays.
“He going to get a chance to play professionally at some point, whether it’s over in Europe or over here, that’s to be determined,” Osborne said.
And if his college career has prepared him for anything, its to expect anything and everything.
“It was a fun ride, no question,” Rohde said. “Going from high school to Arizona State and then sitting on the bench and then coming up to Alaska and being able to flourish.
“The only way I can describe it as a rollercoaster ride.”