After his final collegiate year at St. Francis Xavier University (SFX) was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it did not stop Azaro ‘Big Z’ Roker from realizing his dream of playing basketball professionally. He signed a contract this past Monday to play for the Acunsa Gipuzkoa Basket in Liga Española de Baloncesto (LEB Oro) league in Spain.
The team is based in San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa, Spain and plays in the Donostia Arena. The LEB Oro is the second highest league in Spain. Only the Liga ACB, better known as Liga Endesa, is higher.
“I managed to defy the odds and make what seemed to be impossible possible,” Roker said. “I believe that this could only be possible with God’s grace and the favor he’s placed on my life. Growing up as a kid in Nassau, The Bahamas, I dreamed of this day and now I’ve made this dream a reality through hard work and dedication.”
Roker signed with Helping Baller Management back in May of this year, on Mother’s Day. It is one of the leading sports management agencies in Europe.
He is grateful for the opportunity to make the jump from playing collegiately in Canada to now playing in the second best league in Spain.
“Not only did I manage to land an incredible situation coming out of a Canadian university, but I continued to defy the odds, which was the ability to leave university and make the jump to a top Spanish league. I was told that it was going to be tough landing good opportunities coming out of a Canadian university and not playing the previous basketball season. There were a number of other people in pro leagues, G-league and college that could’ve been placed in this position ahead of me, but I was chosen instead,” Roker said.
Roker, a five-year player for the SFX X-Men in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, developed into one of the top young collegiate players in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) in U Sports (national sport governing body of university sport in Canada) in his final two years with the X-Men. He started all but one game in his final two seasons and averaged 17.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game while shooting 58.6 percent from the field in his final season.
Roker played high school basketball with national team player for The Bahamas Dominick Bridgewater at Anatol Rodgers Senior High School in New Providence.
Gipuzkoa got demoted last season from Liga Endesa, the highest level of basketball in Spain. They finished the season with a 7-29 win/loss record to finish at the bottom of the barrel in 19th position.
While there, Roker will have a chance to help bounce the team back up to the Liga Endesa this upcoming season. They won the LEB Oro league three times in the team’s history.
According to him, this is just the beginning of a long journey that will see him play the sport he loves professionally.
Roker said he always reaches out to Bahamian professional basketball players such as Bridgewater, Jaraun ‘Kino’ Burrows and Dwight Coleby, all of whom play in Europe, for advice on how to transition to the next level and how to adjust once there. He received interest from teams in France, Spain, Finland, Vietnam, Portugal and Sweden before choosing Gipuzkoa.