Roker ready for the next level

Bahamian Azaro Roker is living proof that one doesn’t have to go through the United States to excel in collegiate basketball and make it to the next level.

The 6’7” former forward for the St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) X-Men is beginning the transitional period to the next part of his basketball career – obtaining a professional contract and eventually making it to the National Basketball Association (NBA).

In his final season with the X-Men, Roker averaged 17.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game while shooting 58.6 percent from the field. He was the team Most Valuable Player (MVP), an All-Canadian Second Team member and an All-Conference First Team All Star player.

The fifth year forward is regarded as one who is super athletic, dominant around the basket and a rebounding machine. He led the league in field goal percentage and rebounding in his fourth season.

“A lot of players come here thinking that they want to go to the NBA or play professional basketball, and others come here wanting to use basketball as an avenue to get a degree. I want to do both,” said Roker. “I still feel like I’m going to achieve the ultimate goal of making it to the NBA. I feel like I have the potential to be there so I going to strive for it. I know that I just have to persevere and keep pushing through, I just have to keep fighting through the storm. It’s almost over.”

The X-Men play out of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) in U Sports (national sport governing body of university sport in Canada), in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Western Hemisphere, Roker didn’t play competitive basketball this past season. He hasn’t stepped on the court competitively for the X-Men in over a year, and now is set to graduate this May with a Bachelor of Arts in Development and Religious Studies.

The 23-year-old, who is regarded as an agile big man who can create plays on any part of the court, is looking to take his talents overseas post-graduation. He has a number of offers on the table.

“I feel like this was going to be my breakout year but unfortunately the season was canceled because of COVID. It just made you question everything. There was just a lot of ups and downs. We felt like we had a good team able to make it to the 

championship and win it, so it’s very disappointing that we didn’t get that chance. It’s sad that I probably won’t get a senior night and experience nothing that a senior would usually experience who commits himself and dedicates himself to the team. I lost a lot of time away from basketball, but I’m prepared to move on. My family is excited for me because I am the first to go abroad and achieve a scholarship to university abroad. I know that they have my back no matter what so the weight is lifted,” he said.

Regardless, Roker said he is looking forward to the next step on his basketball journey.

“There are about 12-14 agents who I am in constant contact with so I’m optimistic that I will sign on with an agent and land somewhere. The ultimate goal continues to be the NBA, but because I didn’t get to play this season, I’ll have to go overseas for a year or two and then go from there. It’s just about making the right decision that will propel my career forward,” said Roker.

The Bahamian collegiate basketball player, who recently lost his mother, Apostle Chivan Roker, and dedicates the next phase of his basketball career to her, said he enjoyed his time in the quiet community of Antigonish competing for the X-Men where he was able to create new friendships and forge new relationships and now it’s time to move on.

“There were a lot of people who helped mentor me and helped me along my journey,” said Roker. “From day one, Coach K (X-Men Head Coach Steve Konchalski who retires this year after nearly half of a century at the helm) took me under his wing and was like a father figure to me. I came here at 189 pounds and he helped me to be the player who I am today, putting on about 50 pounds over the years, and transforming into a player who could excel in this league. He just put it in my mind to be a better player. Also, it was good to see the support and love of the people in the community back home with my mother passing. I’m a big believer in faith and in Christianity. God has guided me and directed my steps on the right path. To be denied a US Visa twice and then come here and excel in collegiate basketball is a blessing. I have to send a shout out to my brother Ronald Roker, my sister Chavara Roker-Eneas, my father Cedric Roker and my family in general. I just want to encourage the youngsters out there to keep following your dreams because I was that barefooted boy who was playing outside with crates as baskets. I’ve come a long way. I want to encourage the youngsters to always listen to positivity and continue to push yourself to be great.”

Roker played his high school basketball with national team player for The Bahamas Dominick Bridgewater who he said he remain friends with to this day. He said he always reaches out to Bahamian professional basketball players such as Bridgewater, Jaraun ‘Kino’ Burrows and Dwight Coleby on advice of how to transition to the next level and how to adjust once there. He is receiving interest from teams in France, Spain, Finland, Vietnam, Portugal and Sweden.

From averaging just two points and 2.3 rebounds per game in his freshman season, Roker developed to the point where he was the most improved player on the team in his second season and earned player appreciation and leadership awards. During his career, he averaged a double-double for two years back to back, was a 15-time player of the game and a 15-time athlete of week.

During the 2019-2020 season, he had a 30-point, 20-rebound effort in a 117-116 double overtime win for the X-Men over the Cape Breton University (CBU) Capers on the road in Sydney, Nova Scotia, leading to him being named the Subway Player of the Game. The X-Men ended the regular season that year with a home win over Cape Breton. They went on to lose in the AUS championship game to the Dalhousie University Tigers at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They were looking to build on that experience for the ensuing season, but COVID-19 swooped in.

Be that as it may, Roker said he is grateful for the career he had at StFX and is looking forward to the beginning of what he hopes will be a lengthy and productive professional career.