College / Feb 15, 2012 / 12:00 pm

From The Hometown Kid to Alaska: The Taylor Rohde Story

Taylor Rohde

Taylor Rohde (photo. UAA Athletics)

When kids grow up dreaming of playing college basketball, usually the team they want to play for is the one they grow up rooting for. So for someone from Kentucky, the dream is ultimately to play for the Kentucky Wildcats, and that is why the team has a history of getting Kentucky’s best players because kids there grow up dreaming about playing in Rupp Arena. Well, for Taylor Rohde, this dream of playing for his hometown team became a reality in 2008.

Rohde grew up in the Northeast before moving to Mesa, Arizona in the sixth grade. Upon moving to Mesa, Rohde became an Arizona State fan with the campus located in neighboring Tempe. As Taylor developed into a Division I caliber prospect, playing for the Sun Devils became a reality. He was offered a scholarship by incoming coach Herb Sendek in 2006, a full two years before Rohde could enter college. He committed in the summer of 2006 and was officially the first person to commit to Sendek after he was hired.

“They had just gotten a new coaching staff and I wanted to be part of a rebuilding program so I signed really early,” says Taylor, explaining his decision to commit to Arizona State. “I was Coach Sendek’s first recruit which made me feel really involved in the rebuilding effort. I just really wanted to be a part of an up-and-coming program. I definitely felt that being close to my family and having people in the stands cheering for me would be really beneficial for my career at Arizona State.”

While playing in front of his friends and family every night, and being a part of the revival of Sun Devil basketball seemed like it would be the perfect situation for Rohde, upon arriving on campus, things didn’t go exactly as planned. During his freshman year, he only played four minutes per game on a team that didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament. Despite being unhappy with his limited minutes, Rohde stayed at Arizona State for another year. That year wasn’t much better.

During his sophomore year, Taylor’s minutes doubled and he was the first big man off the bench for Sendek, but he still wasn’t happy. Rohde had signed on eagerly in 2006 because he wanted to be a part of something special but felt like his first two years in Tempe hadn’t lived up to those grand expectations. He felt like his talents weren’t suited to the system, and he would have a better experience elsewhere. He decided to transfer.

“I just felt like for my basketball career I needed to make a change,” he says. “I felt like I was not able to display all of my talents at Arizona State in the system they had there.”

[RELATED: Why 6 High-Level Basketball Recruits Chose Small Colleges]

When he was looking at schools to transfer to, initially Rohde was looking only at Division I schools. He had played in the Pac-10 after all and that was one of the highest levels of basketball around. Transferring to another D-I institution seemed like the logical thing to do. He visited the University of South Dakota and was hearing from UC-Davis and UC-Bakersfield, but after talking to members of his family, Rohde decided he didn’t necessarily need to transfer to a Division I institution. The root of his unhappiness at Arizona State stemmed from his lack of playing time and he didn’t want to put himself in position to sit on the bench for his last two years of eligibility. He began looking at Division II schools, which led him to Alaska and the University of Alaska at Anchorage (UAA).

“I liked the coaching staff a lot,” he says when explaining his reasoning for choosing. “They were very persistent when they were recruiting me and it is a great program that competes against some of the best Division II programs in the nation. It also hosts the Great Alaska Shootout every year which is a tournament where they compete against Division I schools, so I felt like I was getting the best of both worlds coming here.”

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  • H-man

    Interesting piece. I wonder how many D-II or D-III players actually make an NBA roster each year.

  • Agent 00MAC

    Wow, I totally played against this kid in high school. I remember he dropped like 38 and 18 on us. He played for pinnacle. There was a buzz in the gym about the ASU commit. He didn’t dissapoint. But honestly, the next tallest guy on their team was 6’4 and our tallest was 6’6. He went head to head with our big guy, ryan evans whose playing at wisconsin. I honestly never thought he would pan out. He’s got size, but lacks the mobility, hand-eye coordination, and explosion required for a solid D-1 big.

  • Leftcoastist

    Great article…but I played in the same conference as UAA, and i kick myself repeatedly for not taking a division I scholarship and still playing division II under the guise of “playing time”. Bottom line, you play in crowds smaller than what you got in high school, you play with players and versus teams that don’t challenge you partially, and most of the programs are underfunded so your constantly struggling to be your best. If you have a division I choice take it. Work your butt off and give it time. Know the coaching staff, players and your role/where you fit. Because division II rarely leads to the league. If you can’t get buckets at A-state, what makes you think 20 buckets a game at a DII makes up for the talent discrepency? Again, great piece.