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“Experience is everything in college basketball.”
Six words that Northeastern Huskies guard Jordan Roland offered up might be the most accurate reflection of the college game. In an era when so much of national attention focuses on underclassmen passing through on their way to the NBA draft, experience produces championships.
Northeastern is a great example. Last season, the Huskies won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament to land a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The team featured seniors Vasa Pusica and Anthony Green, and juniors Bolden Brace and Donnell Gresham Jr., along with Roland.
But with the seniors graduating, and Gresham transferring, where did that leave the 2019-20 Huskies?
In a pretty good spot, it turns out.
Northeastern may have lost some of its statistical production, but the Huskies are not lacking for experience.
“We had four key guys coming back,” said Northeastern coach Bill Coen. “Bolden Brace; Max Boursiquot, who sat out last year but was a starter on a regular-season champion team [the year before] and then Tomas Murphy, who had a great  CAA Tournament for us. Those four guys have to kind of hold down the fort as the guys grow into their roles.
“So far,” Coen added. “Jordan’s certainly led the charge with that group.”
Roland took college basketball by storm in his first two games of the 2019-20 season, dropping 39 points opening night against Boston University. He followed it up Nov. 8 with 42 points in a win over Harvard.
An All-CAA selection in 2018-19, Roland’s come out this season taking his play to another level, the byproduct of a process Coen said began with last year’s finish.
“He’s taken a real professional attitude not just this season, but since the season last year ended,” Coen said. “Last year gave him a taste of success at the collegiate level. He was a tremendous high school player who played in state championship. He’s a big-time player from early in his career.
“But this is the first time he’s really been a real focal point [in college],” he continued. “Coming off an all-conference performance last year…he was our most accomplished player returning this year. So I feel he felt a little sense of urgency to make sure he was ready to shoulder the load.”
Pusica led Northeastern in scoring a season ago, but Roland was an integral contributor to the NCAA Tournament run. He had a strong finish down the stretch, putting up 26 points in the regular-season finale, scoring 21 to open the CAA Tournament, and knocked down three 3-pointers in the conference championship defeat of Hofstra.
In the Dance, Roland scored a team-high 12 against Kansas.
Growing up in Syracuse, Roland lived 10 minutes from the campus of one of the game’s most passionate fan bases. He said he still tunes into the Orange when he can today, and he was at one time a kid filling out brackets.
Reaching an NCAA Tournament is a milestone, a reflection of the tireless work he’s put into his game, and only adds to the experience buoying him in his final season.
“I wouldn’t even necessarily say just the NCAA Tournament, but this being my fifth year means a lot,” Roland said. “I’ve been through it. I’ve played for two schools and seen a lot.”
Roland began his career at George Washington in 2015-16, where he appeared in 35 games as a freshman. He made 11 starts and scored 6.7 points per game as a sophomore, but transferring to Northeastern is when he began to make real headway.
Last season, Roland posted 14.6 points per game. He shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range, and made 1.2 steals per.
Roland’s game fit nicely with the motion offense that’s been a signature of Coen’s teams. And while this season began with an astronomical uptick in the guard’s scoring production, Roland continues to flourish within the framework of the scheme.
“We pride ourselves on sharing the ball and keeping the ball moving. We haven’t changed that approach at all, other than when he gets the ball, he’s being aggressive,” Coen said.
“It’s hard to say you’re going to get 40 within the flow of the game,” he added. “But that’s what he’s doing.”
Roland attributed his season-opening outbursts to that aggressiveness, in particular an improved ability to get to the free-throw line. He made 17-of-19 attempts in the first two games, and went 3-for-3 in a Nov. 12 loss at UMass.
The defeat to the Minutemen may have been a setback in the win-loss column, but the Huskies showed glimpses of the experienced team that will determine the outlook of the season. Brace scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Murphy put 18. Roland’s 14 dropped his scoring average to just 31.7.
That’s a pace that, if Roland continued on, would mark the highest individual average since Kevin Bradshaw’s 37.6 in 1990-91. Now that would be an experience unlike any other in college basketball.