WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Far from finished

Wilson’s Rountree keeps up the hoops grind, with an eye to the future

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As a double graduate from Wake Forest University and Iona College, Aaron Rountree III could walk away from the game of basketball tomorrow and settle into a comfortable lifestyle in the private sector.

But Rountree, instead of the game being done with him, isn’t finished with basketball — both overseas and domestically.

The Wilson product, who attended Beddingfield High before graduating from Greenfield School, will play in The Basketball Tournament, a lucrative summer event featuring former collegiate and professional players, for the third time beginning in July. 

After playing for Gael Nation, a TBT team made up of Iona alumni, last summer and winning a game in the 64-team field, Rountree, a four-time Wilson Times All-Area selection and the 2011 Times Boys Player of the Year, will now suit up for Team CP3, a squad backed by former Wake Forest star and Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul. Team CP3, the No. 2 seed in the Greensboro Regional, will match up against No. 7 seed Tampa 20/20 on July 19 at the Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse. Should Rountree’s squad go all the way, his team will split a share of the $2 million prize, of which the 24-year-old Rountree is in line to claim $120,000.

A chance to play in front of friends and family pulled Rountree, who played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament with the Gaels, away from playing with former Iona players for year No. 3. With TBT now split into eight-team regionals in the first three rounds, Greensboro was selected as one of the sites. Thus, Rountree elected to play with the Team CP3 squad, which also includes the likes of former North Carolina player P.J. Hairston and N.C. State/UConn guard Rodney Purvis.

“I just couldn’t miss a chance,” Rountree said of returning to the North Carolina stage. “My father hasn’t seen me play live in five or six years, and my mother hasn’t seen me play live in four or five years as well. I couldn’t miss a chance to play in front of my family again in North Carolina.”

Reggie Johnson (Miami), Diante Baldwin (UNC Greensboro), Sam Hunt (N.C. State/North Carolina A&T), Dez Wells (Maryland), Waymond Wright (Virginia State), Nate Mason (Minnesota) and L.J. Peak (Georgetown) also make up the Team CP3 roster, of which Paul serves as general manager.

“I feel like we won’t have any problems scoring,” Rountree said. “I feel like our biggest need to focus on, as long as we defend and rebound, we’ll have a chance. That’s the biggest thing in TBT — we’re all pros at this level, so everybody’s so talented that everybody can put the ball in the basket. It’s the team that defend, they share the ball and do the little things.”

At 6-8, Rountree’s primary role last year for a band of Gael Nation shooters that spread the floor and displayed no hesitation in shooting the ball from 3-point range was to defend, rebound and distribute the ball to shooters waiting on the wings. 

The team came close to reaching the third round of TBT in 2018, but found itself on the wrong end of the innovative “Elam Ending.”

After the first dead ball with under four minutes remaining, the game clock gets turned off. Eight (formerly seven) points are added to the leading team’s score to establish a “target score,” and the first team to reach the target wins. Thus, intentional fouling to preserve time on the clock is eliminated, and every game ends on a made basket of some sort. If the game is tied at the Elam Ending, it’s simply a race to the next eight points.

It has also created some different scenarios. 

Teams have fouled with opponents three points from victory to put them on the line for two shots, and games can easily end on walk-off free throws.

Gael Nation found itself the victim of the latter in its 75-73 loss last year. With its opponent in the bonus, Gael Nation was whistled for a foul and was powerless to stop the clinching point from dropping through the net.

“Every game ends on a walk-off,” Rountree said. “That’s the hype around the ending, that every game ends on a made basket,  but losing a game on a walk-off free throw? That’s literally losing a game on a walked hitter. Bases loaded, and you lose on a full-count walk. That’s what it felt like losing on a free throw. You had no control over it.”

Still, Rountree said he preferred playing to a score instead of the “snail ball” of teams protecting possession to kill the clock.

WHERE TO NEXT?

Already, Rountree has beaten the odds playing internationally. He’s coming off his third season of playing overseas, most recently in the Qatari Basketball League, the top-tier league in that nation. In playing for Qatar Sports Club, Rountree’s team reached the league semifinals before bowing out. With one-year contracts in hand at each stop, Rountree and his agent are currently looking for a home for a fourth season of international play.

Previously, Rountree made stops at MBK Lucenec in Slovakia in the Extraliga League. He spent 2017-18 with Allianz Swans Gmunden in Austria and ASA Koroivos Amaliadas in Greece.

“Next year, if I’m blessed enough to have another pro contract, that will be my fourth year,” Rountree said. “A lot of guys don’t get past their first or second year. There’s some great parts to it, but it’s also a little tougher being away from home.”

As a professional, Rountree has stayed away from serious injury and, if the contracts continue to pour in, could play well into the next decade. But he wants to shed a jersey for a suit and tie on a college bench in the near future.

“Physically, if I stay at this rate, I can probably play for another seven or eight years,” Rountree said. “But I don’t want to play that long. I think I’ll play anywhere from two to four more years, and then, I want to go into coaching. I want to be a coach very, very bad. That’s the next step for me. I want to coach. Hopefully I can coach at one of my alma maters one day, either Wake or at Iona. I want to coach at the college level, and I would coach any college that gave me a chance.” 

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