Aspen’s Roark to join Wolfpack
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Austin Roark has acquitted himself quite well on the hardwood in recent years.
But when it comes to cycling, the learning curve appears to be a bit steeper. The Aspen High senior was taking a training ride last month in advance of an Ex-Ed trip to the Bay Area when he ran into some trouble on Cemetery Lane.
“I was practicing unclipping and clipping into my pedals, and I thought I got it,” Roark recalled Saturday. “At one point, I got my right foot out, then tried to unclip my left and didn’t make it. I fell over on the left side, squeezed my thighs together and cracked my dad’s expensive carbon-fiber frame.
“He was watching the whole thing. He was just shaking his head, and he put his hand over his eyes.”
Son found a way to repay father – and then some. Roark on Friday signed a national letter of intent to attend Loyola University New Orleans, completing a three-year recruiting process and fulfilling a dream nearly seven years in the making.
He will receive a full scholarship and is slated to join the Wolfpack basketball program in the fall.
“I only have to pay for books. … Hopefully, dad can replace that bike now,” Roark joked.
He continued: “This was a big weight off my shoulders. Getting to this point has kind of been a rough process – it took a lot longer than I thought it would.”
Roark, the son of Aspen School District Assistant Superintendent Julia Roark, generated much attention during the 2010-11 season, when he helped lead Manzano High School in Albuquerque, N.M., to the 5A state championship game.
By the time he transferred to Aspen last fall, Roark had Division II, III and junior college offers, “but the one I really wanted hadn’t hit me yet.”
“Every day, it was getting more and more stressful,” he admitted. “I was getting nervous, but at the end of the day I kind of had to relax and trust that schools would eventually come calling.”
Roark didn’t let the pressure affect him on the court. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound standout quickly emerged as the Skiers’ outspoken floor leader, helping lead the squad to a 19-5 record and 3A Western Slope conference and district titles. He averaged more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game.
For his efforts, Roark garnered Slope player-of-the-year honors and was selected to participate in “The Show” at Denver’s Pepsi Center.
Colleges took notice: The Air Force Academy, the University of Colorado and Colorado State University-Pueblo all expressed interest. Loyola, meanwhile, entered the discussion by pure happenstance.
In Aspen on a family vacation this past winter and looking for a place to work out, Loyola player McCall Tomeny contacted Aspen High head coach Steve Ketchum. Roark subsequently was introduced to Tomeny, and the two spent a few days together.
About a week later, Roark received a phone call.
“(Tomeny) called me and said, ‘Hey, I told my coach about you, told him I really liked you. I think he might be interested – he said he’s going to look into you,'” Roark said. “I kind of brushed it off.”
At least until Wolfpack head coach Michael Giorlando contacted him. The two kept in touch during the second half of the high school season, then Giorlando invited Roark to New Orleans.
He initially was hesitant.
“I wasn’t sure what the school was offering, and at the time I didn’t realize that the (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) was so competitive. The way I understand it now, competition is between DI and DII,” Roark said. “I did a little more research. A few weeks before The Show in April, I decided to go down there.”
The three-day trip changed everything, Roark said.
“It’s the right school with the right program, the right coaches and the right players. And being in New Orleans doesn’t hurt,” joked Roark, who was offered a scholarship soon after the sojourn. “They thought my skill range and my versatility could do me well. … I still have a lot to learn, but if I keep working on those I think I’ll be hitting the ground running.”
“At the end of the day, we balanced everything. … I decided after Ex-Ed that Loyola was the place I needed to be.”
He made it official Friday with his parents, Ketchum and Superintendent John Maloy by his side. He also called Tomeny.
“It’s hard to describe how good it feels setting a goal and finally accomplishing it,” said Roark, who plans to major in business. “It’s nice to have worked hard and to see it paying off with me getting a great education.
“It kind of feels like the process has dragged on forever. Now, I want it to go so much faster so I can get to school and get to work.”
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