Mick Morris — head football coach at Hellgate High School is Missoula, Montana — remembers meeting Rollie Worster like it was yesterday.
Worster was just a freshman then, and Morris had just joined Hellgate to try turning around a football program that owned one of the country’s longest losing streaks. As the two newcomers introduced themselves, Worster’s demeanor caught the coach’s, well, hand.
“He reached his hand out, grabbed my hand and shook it in a way that kind of shocked me,” Morris said. “Certainly didn’t seem like a freshman when I first met him.”
That’s the Worster aesthetic: wise, strong, smart beyond his years. A two-way football player in the fall and a point guard in the winter, Worster spent his high school years either on the field or on the court. He never stopped working, never stopped learning, never stopped competing.
And that’s led Worster to where he is today — a starter on Utah State men’s basketball team.
“He really is a complete player,” Aggies coach Craig Smith said. “He plays with such great poise and confidence and toughness. And I would say, at the end of the day, he’s ahead of his years, so to speak, in terms of some of the things he does as a true freshman.”
Worster has started every game for the Aggies this season as a true freshman. In eight games, he’s averaging 11.9 points, 3.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 28.8 minutes per game. He scored a career high 17 points last month in a win over the University of Northern Iowa, and dished a career high seven assists in Monday’s blowout of San Jose State.
That type of production is a product of the work Worster put in growing up in a basketball family. His father, Scott, and two older sisters, Shannon and Sami, all played. Scott played high school basketball at Ben Lomond High School in Ogden, and Shannon won an NAIA title with the Montana Western women’s team in March 2019.
UTAH STATE AT AIR FORCE
When • Dec. 31
TV • CBSSN
Scott Worster said his son’s competitive drive comes from playing against his two older sisters. When Rollie was 4 or 5 years old, his dad would take him to his sister’s practices, where he would set screens and serve as a substitute when he wasn’t on another part of the court shooting by himself. When he would play against his sisters and lose, he’d get upset.
“He’d storm off into his room and slam the door,” Scott Worster said.
It was much of the same when father and son faced off. To this day, Worster believes he hasn’t beaten his dad one-on-one because once he got to a certain age, his dad refused to play him.
“I definitely never beat him because he never gave me a chance,” Worster said. “That’s what I’d say.”
But Scott Worster remembers when his son beat him at a game of H-O-R-S-E for the first time. Worster was in seventh grade and forced an “E” on his dad with a 3-pointer, a shot very much in his arsenal as an Aggies guard.
“I had to hear about that for three months,” Scott Worster said.
Worster was raised mainly by his dad, two sisters and grandparents. Scott Worster became a single father when Rollie was 2 years old, he said, which allowed a deep bond to grow within the family. Worster credits his father for pushing him and his sisters in the right direction athletically.
“He would just always be there and put us through drills and critique us in a good way, even if sometimes I didn’t like it,” Worster said. “But it was always fun and he definitely drove me to be great.”
But Worster wasn’t just great at basketball. As a quarterback for Hellgate, he threw for 3,400 yards and rushed for more than 2,000. He got offers to play football at Montana and Montana State, Morris said, after taking the team from zero wins in his sophomore year to five over the next two. He was first team all-state as a safety and earned an all-state honorable mention as a quarterback.
Jeffrey Hays, Worster’s former basketball coach at Hellgate, had a love-hate relationship with watching his star point guard on the gridiron.
“I loved it from the sense that he was competing and you knew he was never, ever going to quit,” Hays said. “I hated it because he was in on every single play and he was so valuable to us in basketball. And so those games were like a heart attack for me.”
During football seasons, Worster still kept a foot and a half in the basketball door. His schedule in high school consisted of class, football practice, a meal, weight lifting with his trainer, homework, and finally putting up 1,000 shots with his dad and working on ball handling.
Worster’s deep involvement in both sports at a high level is likely what fast tracked his development. His former coaches and father say various skills translate from football and basketball and vice versa, particularly when it comes to reading defenses, making quick decisions and leading a team.
As a two-way football player, one’s mind and body must be engaged and in control at all times, and it’s similar as a point guard in basketball. Hays said that whether it was on the field or the court, every opponent wanted a piece of Worster.
“He probably took more late hits, more elbows and cheap shots, and more people probably talked trash to him than any other player that I’ve seen,” Hays said.
But none of that fazed Worster, who started getting recruited by the Aggies not long after he decommitted from Montana before his senior year. USU assistant coach Eric Peterson, who recruited Worster, said the first thing he noticed about the young guard was his toughness.
“His jersey was ripped, people were face-guarding him, and he just went at those guys every possession on both ends of the floor,” Peterson said. “He had the GATA [Get After Their A--es] mentality that we look for here at Utah State.”
Peterson said Worster was difficult to reach when he first started recruiting him. He missed calls and would return them later saying things like, “Sorry coach I was in the gym making 500 threes tonight” or, “Hey sorry coach, I was just doing yoga to work on my flexibility” or, “Hey coach, sorry I was studying for a test.”
“At first you’re like, ‘Is this kid serious or is it the girl in high school avoiding you after a bad date?’” Peterson said. “But when you find out he’s serious, you know he has a relentless work ethic to be the best player he can be. We always say winning is hard, and we just had that feeling that Rollie was different than the rest.”
Worster was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Montana. He was a star football player. He became known for his drive, grit and motor in the Missoula community.
But most of all, Worster is simply a winner. And that’s a trait Aggies fans know and appreciate all too well.
“He doesn’t care what his stat line is. He doesn’t care about how many points he scores or shot attempts he gets or how many assists,” Smith said. “He truly, truly does not give a rip about any of that stuff. He just wants to win and that’s the bottom line.”