'I need to be me again; my body needs to reset to how it was before'

The 31-year-old basketball player from the Bahamas recounts some of the most difficult moments of her life and her reasons for signing for CAB Estepona

MARINA RIVAS ESTEPONA.

It is undeniable that Waltiea Rolle's presence is intimidating both on and off the court.

Rolle, 31, has joined CAB Estepona as the first basketball player in Malaga province to have played in the WNBA (the US's Women's National Basketball Association).

She is the tallest player in the Challenge League (in which CAB Estepona play) with a height of 1.98 metres, and was the first Bahamian to play in the American league.

"I try to help girls develop, go to school and enjoy basketball so that one day they can perhaps dedicate themselves to it professionally"

Introverted and tenacious, Rolle left her native country in search of an opportunity to combine studies and basketball.

A young mother, she has travelled the world seeking a professional future in the sport, while resigning herself to only seeing her daughters on specific occasions.

Her stint in Estepona will allow her to regain her fitness before considering returning to the Bahamas, where the situation is more complicated.

On the day of the interview, her brother, who is a policeman there, had just been shot in the leg.

-Didn't you want to be a police officer?

-No, my uncle, father and brother are, but I didn't. My brother was just in a house robbery and was shot in the leg.

-What is the lifestyle like in the Bahamas? I imagine it is incomparable to any European country.

-No (laughs). Europe is more peaceful.

-Is that why you came here?

-No, I came here to try for a professional basketball career. Right now I feel like being here is better than being at home.

-Let's start from the beginning. How did you start with basketball?

-Actually, I never wanted to play basketball, it just happened. One day, at the age of 18, I was given the opportunity to participate in a basketball programme for tall boys and girls from the Bahamas. They offered us an academic future...

-And it was your chance to leave the Bahamas and look for a life

outside, in the United States.

-Of course. My family also told me to pursue it, because in the

Bahamas there was not enough...

-Are there many Bahamians leaving for the United States?

-Yes, we see it as an opportunity... For education, jobs...

-So you never played basketball before college?

-Never. Before going to the United States I had no idea about basketball. I learned to play in a summer league before college.

-And did you soon realise that you wanted to be a professional?

-Yes, because I saw many opportunities, open doors, trips around the world, meeting new people.

-And to earn money, of course...

-Yes, for my two daughters above all. My family is fine for work. My mother is a chef.

-I read that you were a mother in college.

-Yes, I had my first daughter in my third year of college, with a boy from North Carolina who stayed there.

-I understand that your second daughter has a different father...

-Yes, from the Bahamas. We were married and everything.

-And where are the girls now?

-With my mother, in the Bahamas. I miss them so much, I video call them every day,

-I understand it must be difficult to be a mother and a player. What are the biggest obstacles you have faced?

-When you are a mother, you have to live for your children and it is very complicated when you are a young mother because you do not know what to do. I don't know how to explain it, but you want to experience more.

-When you move to another country to play, for example, do they go with you?

-Not normally, except for when I was in Bulgaria for two years. There, I lived with my younger daughter and her father. We were together, married. The oldest was in the Bahamas, with my mother.

-During the time when you weren't playing and were with your daughters in the Bahamas, did you consider quitting basketball?

-On the one hand yes, because I had been playing far away from my daughters for about seven years and I thought I should be with them and give up basketball, because I missed them. But, on the other hand, I wanted to feel good about myself, to feel like a player again.

-You needed to play again...

-Yes, I missed it, I love basketball. I can still play a little more before saying good bye.

-And how did you get to know Estepona?

-My agent told me about several teams, but it was difficult for me to find a team that could adapt to what I wanted. I ended up finding Malaga, which can adapt to me.

-What did you know about Malaga and Spain?

-Almost nothing. I have a former classmate playing in Leganés. We played together in Seattle. I like this because it's more familiar.

-What is your routine like now?

-Right now I don't do anything other than train, rest... It's a complicated

time for me because in 2020 I didn't play any basketball. My body needs to reset, to go back to how it was before. I need to be me again this season and after that I don't know. I need to feel like I have my normal body again.

-You played for the Xinjiang Magic Deer in the Chinese league until it was cancelled due to Covid and then you returned to your country for about a year and a half, where you did not play basketball at all. What did you do during that time?

-Yes, in China Covid was very prominent in 2019, so I returned to my country. In the Bahamas the situation was also complicated, there were many cases, many restrictions, I could not do any exercise... But I got a job at Atlantis (a hotel complex in the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau). where I worked as a saleswoman.

-Right now, how long do you plan to stay here?

-Seven months. Perhaps when I feel like I am physically fit, I will explore other possibilities. Right now I'm recovering.

-I understand that the level of basketball you've played in recent

years is incomparable to your experience in the WNBA...

-That's another level, very talented people. It's very difficult to play there and it was a pleasure for me.

-Do you think you were ready to play at that level?

-Yes, physically I was 100% at the time.

-But what happened? Because it was a short experience...

-In 2013 I was drafted and in the three or four games I played I was among the top rated of the match. Then I went home and called Seattle Storm, who made me consecutive seven-day contracts. When the season was over Seattle changed the entire squad, from the coach to the players, so I decided to go to Europe. In addition, I was also waiting for my visa, I had nowhere to play...

-So you needed an employment contract to renew your visa?

-Of course, and after that no team called me, so I went to Europe and at all the teams I've been to I've had a professional contract.

-What are your plans for the future? What are your dreams?

-I dream of being a coach at an American university, in the NCAA and also continuing with my Foundation, in the Bahamas.

-What is your Foundation's work?

-I try to help girls develop, go to school and enjoy basketball so that one day they can perhaps play professionally. I focus on girls as there is already a lot of focus on boys.