When Ryan Rollins' NBA future became clear to Warriors draft pick

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When Rollins' NBA future became clear to Warriors rookie originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

LAS VEGAS -- The Warriors have three future Hall of Famers on their hands in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Debate that on your own time.

All three were far from sure things as high school prospects. None earned the prestigious five-star label.

Curry was a three-star recruit out of Charlotte Christian High School. His name wasn't seen on any top recruit lists. Thompson and Green both were four-star recruits in the class of 2008, with the Splash Brother out of Santa Margarita Catholic High School ranked as the No. 51 prospect in the country by Rivals, and the forward from Saginaw High School coming in at No. 122.

This year in the NBA draft, the Warriors' top pick, Patrick Baldwin Jr., once was seen as the top high school recruit in the country and finished No. 5 overall by ESPN in the class of 2021, one spot ahead of Jabari Smith, who was taken third overall by the Houston Rockets one month ago. But with their second selection, they went a different route.

Ryan Rollins, like Curry, was a three-star recruit. His name also wasn't on any top recruit lists. He then took a very similar college path out of Dakota High School in Macomb Township, Mich., as Curry.

“In high school, it was mainly mid-majors," Rollins said to NBC Sports Bay Area on the latest episode of Dubs Talk in an interview during the Las Vegas Summer League. "I had a lot of MAC schools. My final three were Kent State, Toledo and Ball State. I ended up picking Toledo.

"That was the best decision for me. It’s close to home, it was a nice roster, nice coaching staff. I just felt comfortable with the whole organization. I felt like it was the right fit for me, and it was.”

As a high school senior, Rollins was named All-State after averaging 25.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. His mind already was made up on his future well before one final dominant high school season.

The summer going into his senior year, Rollins had committed to Toledo. The recruiting process was over, which was a relief to him.

“It was a little bit draining, I'd say," Rollins says of being recruited. "We had open gyms in high school and they’d be coming back to back to all the open gyms in high school just recruiting me, talking to me. But I kind of got it off my shoulders.

"I committed early my junior summer before my senior year just to get that weight off my shoulder and just worry about basketball, not all the other stuff that comes with it."

Once he arrived on campus, Rollins made an immediate impact. All it took was his third game to put up a 20-point performance. Rollins started all 30 games for the Rockets, scored double-digit points 25 times and scored a season-high 25 on Central Michigan.

He ranked second on the team in points (13.7), rebounds (5.2) and assists (2.7). Rollins led all MAC freshman in points per game, which is one reason why he was named MAC Freshman of the Year.

And that's what opened his eyes to a future in the NBA.

"After my freshman year when I won Freshman of the Year, I knew it was a possibility for me in the future," Rollins said. "I didn’t think it was going to be this fast. But for sure for me to play basketball in the future professionally."

An eye-opening freshman season was only the start of something big. Rollins' NBA prospects took off as a sophomore. He led Toledo with 18.9 points and 1.7 steals, and was second in rebounds (6.0) and assists (3.7). The mid-range weapon dropped 35 on Coastal Carolina on his way to being named the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship MVP, and was a First-Team All-MAC honoree.

Those aren't exactly Curry-esque numbers, but Rollins certainly stood out amongst his college competition. Fellow stars that came from mid-majors like Curry and CJ McCollum inspire Rollins to be next in line with the Warriors.

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There's one player who'll always inspire him the most, however. The long and lanky guard comes from the Church of Kobe Bryant.

"I just liked the way that he played, his mentality," Rollins said. "I love everything about Kobe and what he brought to the game. That was for sure my guy growing up."

The Los Angeles Lakers traded their starting center in Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets to acquire Bryant on the night of the 1996 draft. The Warriors sent the Atlanta Hawks $2 million to move up from No. 51 to No. 44 to take Rollins last June, flirted with the idea of jumping all the way to No. 30 for him and had him as a first-round talent on their big board.

They're true fans of the former three-star recruit, and believe he could be their latest savvy draft steal.

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