MORAGA, Calif. -- The last time E.J. Rowland found himself in McKeon Pavilion, he was more focused on graduating from college than basketball.
That's what Rowland does now though, playing basketball that is, and on a short break from his VEF Riga team in Latvia, the Salinas, Calif. native found his way back to one of the places where it all began -- Moraga.
It was Rowland's first time back in McKeon since he left college, and said the feeling remained just the same.
"I've seen games on TV, but it doesn't give me the same feeling," Rowland said. "It just brings back so many memories, seeing how intense the crowd is and how Gael Force gets going. It's special."
Since he's left Saint Mary's, Rowland has carved out a tremendously successful career. He has played in Latvia, Australia, Spain and now back to Latvia, and in 2009 played on the Bulgarian national team as a naturalized citizen.
"(Basketball) is the common denominator," Rowland said. "I've lived in Southern Spain where it's 70 degrees all year and now I'm in Eastern Europe where it's 10 below. That's the thing that keeps me happy and keeps me in my comfort zone.
Rowland has been a standout for Riga this season, averaging over 15 points per game in nearly every stage of the season. He's logged heavy minutes and continues to play the same brand of basketball that made him so successful at Saint Mary's.
Having had a chance to watch from afar, Rowland has gained an appreciation for current Gaels star Matthew Dellavedova. Now, after seeing him in person, Rowland reiterated what most seem to say.
"He understands the game, he has a feel for everything," Rowland said. "Watching his progression, how he was with (Mickey) McConnell and then he had to take over the reigns and get to show more of himself. It's special. I'm happy for him. You can tell he works hard and he deserves all the credit he's getting."
What has changed a bit throughout Rowland's travels is how people react to him when he tells them where he played his college ball.
"I meet people from across the country and say I'm with Saint Mary's and they say 'oh, that's a good basketball school,'" Rowland said. " A couple years before I got here, we were 2-27. It's a special thing. You feel like you're a pillar in that and you feel like you're part of something special."