LAS VEGAS — Ryan Rollins wasn’t completely new to the Bay Area when he first worked out for the Warriors at Chase Center before the 2022 NBA Draft, prior to Golden State spending $2 million to move up from No. 51 to No. 44 overall in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks to add the now 20-year-old guard. He was, however, far from his Michigan roots.
What kept him grounded and motivated back home in Detroit is what first brought him to The Bay: Family.
“It was different,” Rollins said to NBC Sports Bay Area of his first time in San Francisco, on the latest episode of Dubs Talk in an interview during the Las Vegas Summer League. “I like it, for sure. It’s different than the Midwest, though — Detroit, Toledo area. But I like it.
“I’m gonna love it, for sure. And I got a little bit of family out there, too. I had been out there already. I wasn’t used to it but I kind of knew what to expect. Yeah, I I’m gonna like it.”
Family, to Rollins, is everything.
Staying close to his family played a big role in Rollins choosing to play collegiately at Toledo over Kent State and Ball State. Kent State would be over a three-to-four hour drive for Rollins’ parents Toni and Chris Sr. to watch him play. Ball State would have been at least four hours. Toledo, though, was an hour or so drive for Rollins’ parents to see him thrive and become a legitimate NBA prospect.
Now, his new home at Chase Center in San Francisco is over 2,400 miles from the high school gym in Macomb Township, Mich., where he starred for the Dakota High School Cougars. Having some family in Oakland and Vallejo certainly helps ease any feelings of being homesick. And all he has to do is look down at his left arm to remember what keeps him going.
As Rollins lifts his left arm during our interview at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, he begins explaining the art that literally represents wearing his heart on his sleeve.
“That’s the thing with my tattoos: There’s a story with all of them,” Rollins says. “This is my first one actually. It’s FOE, that’s Family Over Everything. And it’s kind of like it’s in my hands since I got the basketball. I can change my family’s life with basketball, because it’s in my hands.”
Once he averaged 13.7 points and was named MAC Freshman of the Year, Rollins began to really see that he could turn his basketball dreams into reality. He then bumped his scoring average up to 18.9 points as a sophomore, good for a 5.2-point difference. Leading Toledo to its second straight MAC championship, Rollins flew up draft boards.
Then came the June draft, with the warriors seeing him as a first-round talent, and snagging him with the 14th pick of the second round. Drawn below his wrist and above the ‘E’ in FOE is a Spalding basketball with the NBA logo front and center. On July 28, more than a month after the draft, Rollins signed his first professional contract — one worth $4.8 million over three years, with the first two years fully guaranteed.
Step 1 in changing his family’s life with basketball was complete.
“And then this one,” Rollins said, looking at the inside of his left forearm. ” ‘Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord you guide us wherever you go.’
“It’s a quote that I stick with me, just so I know God’s with me everywhere I go. He’s got me in a bubble of protection.”
To the side of FOE, Rollins hath the year his grandmother passed away etched in roman numerals, and flying up to the ‘F’ is a dove, or guardian angel as he describes it, for his grandma.
His ink is his story, what he holds nearest and dearest.
“Yeah, all my tattoos have stories,” he said. “It’s kind of me in a way.”
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When Rollins arrived on Toledo’s campus in 2020, he was tattoo free. With the growth of his game came the growth of Rollins the person on and off the court. The start to his half-sleeve corresponded to that maturity.
At 18 years old, Rollins was ready for his body to no longer be a blank slate. Long before, he knew family would be his guiding light and ultimate inspiration.
Dangling his No. 2 Warriors jersey over his spindly stature, this is only the start for Ryan and the rest of the Rollins squad.
“Family, that’s my main thing in life,” Rollins said. “That’s one of my main goals in life — just to change their lives with my abilities and just give back.
“Honestly, that’s what I want to do.”
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