Sunday, March 9, 2014
BY JENN MENENDEZ
Portland Press Herald
PORTLAND -- A grin escapes from the corners of Magnum Rolle's mouth as he covers his face with the paperwork he's been filling out as his first official day of practice as a Maine Red Claw.
PUTTING IN WORK: Mario West shoots 3 during Media Day and practice for the Maine Red Claws on Tuesday at the Portland Expo. The Red Claws will play their first and only exhibition game Monday at the Augusta Civic Center.
PRACTICE TIME: Magnum Rolle works his way down the court during a drill at Media Day and practice for the Maine Red Claws on Tueasday at the Portland Expo.
Who: Maine Red Claws vs. Springfield Armor
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Augusta Civic Center
RED CLAWS TRAINING CAMP ROSTER
• Tajuan Porter*, 5-8 guard, Oregon
• Lawrence Westbrook*, 6-0 guard, Minnesota
• Armon Bassett*, 6-2 guard, Ohio
• Kenny Hayes*, 6-1 guard, Miami (Ohio)
• JaJuan Smith, 6-3 guard, Tennessee
• Jamar Smith*, 6-4 guard, Southern Indiana
• James Lewis*, 6-4 guard, Fresno Pacific
• Lamonte Ulmer*, 6-6 forward, Rhode Island
• Mario West, 6-5 guard, Georgia Tech,
• Champ Oguchi*, 6-5 guard, Illinois State
• Paul Harris*, 6-5 forward, Syracuse
• Stephane Lasme, 6-8 forward, Massachusetts
• Gene Spates, 6-8 forward, Northeastern
• Tiny Gallon*, 6-10 forward, Oklahoma
• Magnum Rolle*, 6-11 center, Louisiana Tech
Yes, he says, with chagrin. He is named after "Magnum P.I." -- the fictitious Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Tom Selleck character from the 80s show with the iconic mustache. His mother loved the guy.
Tuesday, Rolle, a 6-foot-11 center from Louisiana Tech -- by way of Freeport, Bahamas -- hit the parquet floor of the Portland Expo as one of 15 players in training camp for the Claws.
The final team of 10 will be named Nov. 18, the eve of the team's home opener. And make no mistake it will be a young and hungry group, built by design for Season 2.
"From the coaching staff to the players, everyone's here on a pit stop to try and get somewhere better," said Rolle, who was cut from the Indiana Pacers camp last month. "It's a bump in the road. But I look at it as a positive. I'm going to keep working."
Rolle is joined by a cast of mostly NBA Development League rookies, including Paul Harris, the former Syracuse standout who spent all of last year injured, and Oklahoma's Tiny Gallon, not so tiny at 6-foot-10, 310 pounds.
They are anchored down by the team's lone returning player from Season 1: guard Mario West, a dynamic fan favorite who finished last year on contract with the NBAs Atlanta Hawks and was just cut from the Boston Celtics.
"If I was coming back to the D-League, I was gonna come here," said West, wearing his trademark white terrycloth headband. "The only thing I can control is my effort. I want to play every game like it's the last."
Read, there is the reason he was brought back to Maine.
"We love having Mario here. He was the ultimate player for us," Maine general manager Jon Jennings said. "When I came in here early in the morning and heard a single basketball being bounced it was Mario West. You so desperately want a guy like him in your locker room."
West was a late cut by the Celtics. He said the experience was fantastic, and has made him hungry to get back to Boston.
"I really can't put into words what that was like," West said. "I had special moments with every guy. These are guys I looked up to and now I'm sitting here sharing a locker room and going out to dinner?"
His top experience included spending time with Shaquille O'Neil. He was first acquainted with Shaq was in the 2008. "I got in and tripped over his foot."
The Red Claws, said Jennings, should be among the most highly scouted teams this year with players like West, Rolle, Harris and the like.
The team was built around the premise of players having the right attitude. Everyone in the league, is generally trying to get somewhere else -- a reality that can make for a precarious dynamic.
"We're trying to preach whatever agenda they have is accelerated by working hard. Their value is measured by helping a team win," Ainge said. "Playing selfish does not get you called up."