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 on his first official day of practice as a Maine Red Claw.

Yes, he says, with chagrin. He is named after “Magnum P.I.,” the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Tom Selleck character with the iconic mustache from the 1980s television show. 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 the 15 players in training camp for the Claws.

The final team of 10 will be named Nov. 18, the eve of the team’s 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 by the team’s lone returning player: guard Mario West, who finished last year on contract with the 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. “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,” said General Manager Jon Jennings. “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 training-camp 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,” said West. “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?”

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.

“We’re trying to preach that whatever agenda they have is accelerated by working hard. Their value is measured by helping a team win,” said Coach Austin Ainge. “Playing selfish does not get you called up.”

Ultimately, said Ainge, a first season in the D-League taught the franchise about the kind of player that it wants.

“Attitude and skill level,” said Ainge. “Everybody is excited on Day 1. On the third day of two-a-days you can see the character and drive.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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