Her own role assured, Roser hopes to lead NU into the national spotlight

Kevin Trahan

As one of few elite Canadian basketball players, Karly Roser is used to being under the radar. Now that she’s at Northwestern, the up-and-coming freshman has discovered a new role in the spotlight.

Roser won a starting spot at the beginning of the season and has posted two double-doubles so far this year. Her surprising early success earned her Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors in November. She and fellow freshman Morgan Jones have helped lead a relatively young team to a 8-1 record, including wins over No. 20 Louisiana State, North Carolina State and Missouri.

“It’s great for the program just to show what kind of people we’re recruiting,” Roser said. “I’m kind of under the radar a little bit because I’m from Canada so it’s nice to be recognized.”

Following a spectacular high school career, Roser received scholarship offers from Michigan, Marquette and Northwestern. While her journey to Evanston wasn’t typical of most Division I basketball recruits, her choice was obvious.

“It was just the best fit for me, personally,” Roser said. “It had the best balance between academics and athletics, an up-and-coming basketball program, Coach (Joe) McKeown knows his stuff and they’ve graduated so many high-class players.”

While Roser ended up at a major conference school, she said that it’s hard for Canadian basketball players to get noticed unless they “go to the right tournaments and play the right teams.”

For Roser, her opportunity came when she played for Canada’s U16 and U17 teams, an experience that helped her gain notice from college coaches.

Making the national team was a process in itself. Roser was selected from a provincial team to go to a national selection camp, where she was then selected for the U16 team, which placed second to the United States at a regional tournament in Mexico. The next year, her U17 team went on the to world championships in France.

“It was cool to experience different culture,” Roser said. “I’ve played many teams from Asia, Africa, each region.”

Playing on the world stage helped ease Roser’s transition into the college game, especially as she gained exposure to different playing styles – she describes the Canadian approach as more defensive-based than the US one – and had the chance to take on superior competition.

After facing off against various national teams, Roser is well-prepared to take on Division I competition.

“It was a higher level than high school, playing against those teams,” she said.

Even given the elite competition she faced in high school, Roser has still noticed a big difference between her high-school games and her college games.

“It’s a faster-paced game,” she said. “For me, trying to get the ball to other people, there’s not as much of an opportunity. You have to make decisions in a split second for it to work.”

She has also faced a big transition off to court. Having just completed her first quarter at NU, Roser has had to make a quick adjustment to college life, typical of any freshman.

“It’s really hard as freshmen; there’s so much expectation,” she said. “At the beginning, it was hard because everything is thrown at you. College life is kind of hard. There’s more work involved; it’s tougher. Basketball takes a five-hour chunk out of time.”

And while Roser may only be a freshman, she knows McKeown is relying on her.

“Especially as point guard, Coach is expecting me to lead my team,” she said.

Although she has hit bumps along the way, including a nine-turnover game against Louisiana State, Roser has become a budding star for the Cats, helping her team strike a strong balance between young talent and experience.

With NU playing at such a high level, Roser and her teammates have big dreams, with the goal of landing the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 1997.

There’s still a long way to go – NU has yet to commence conference play and only received three total votes in the last Associated Press poll – but if the Cats do make the Tournament, they’ll have to do so under the leadership of a freshman point guard – one who has already become quite familiar with how hard it is to earn one’s way into the spotlight.

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