Utah State basketball: TeNale Roland making strides off the bench
Junior has had to step up at both guard positions.
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Logan • For a while, TeNale Roland wasn't just the shortest player on the Utah State roster, he was also one of the hardest to notice.

For a six-game stretch, the Aggies' backup point guard didn't make a huge impact, totaling only 19 points and four assists during a 5-1 run for the team. But since being thrust back into starters' minutes — if not the starting lineup — he's been gradually working his way to being more effective.

The recent three-game win streak has been something of a rebirth for Roland, who has rediscovered some once-dormant abilities. Early in the season, he was often shut down by bigger defenders. Lately, his penetration has helped diversify Utah State's offense.

"It's been mainly being aggressive, playing harder on both sides of the ball," the junior says. "I've been working on my one- and two-dribble jump shots, and I can shoot over bigger guys, hit floaters and things like that. And if they go up, I can dish to one of the big guys."

The latest rise in Roland's play has led to him averaging nine points per game on 10-for-21 shooting in the winning streak. Utah State uses him at both the point guard spot and shooting guard position, so any points the Aggies can get from him are welcome relief.

"We needed him to [play better]," coach Stew Morrill said. "His nature is to kind of cruise along. We need him to set his jaw and play physical. He's done a better job of being aggressive."

Depth making game prep difficult

Morrill is used to having a difficult slog through February. This month is an entirely new beast.

Morrill and his staff have to consider how to hold practice with eight scholarship players and no subs.

Besides having to determine how to keep the energy up throughout practice, the Aggies also have to give reps to Roland at shooting guard and Jordan Stone at power forward.

That means some practice minutes go to team managers, staff members, or whoever has two legs and can guard. It adds a lot of stress to an already stressful month, Morrill said during his Tuesday news conference.

"It's a mix-and-match puzzle and quite a mess, to be frank," Morrill said. "It's hard to get guys reps so they know what they're doing at their positions."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon