On the basketball court, St. John's Jesuit's Brian Roberts is a true gamer. Come next year, he intends to become a Flyer.
The standout, 6-1 guard, who helped lead the Titans to a City League playoff championship and a Division I state semifinal appearance, yesterday an-nounced his verbal commitment to continue his career and studies at the University of Dayton.
Roberts made his decision after an official visit to Dayton last weekend. It was his only official visit and - along with the thorough recruiting attention paid him by the Flyer coaching staff throughout the summer - it was enough to convince him he didn't need to venture elsewhere.
“After being down there on the visit and talking with the players and coaches some more, I just felt that's where I needed to be,” Roberts said. “Throughout the summer, I saw them at every tournament I was at, watching me. I just felt like they wanted me the most out of anybody. It was pretty much an easy decision for me.”
At Dayton, Roberts will play for new head coach Brian Gregory, who was previously an associate head coach at Michigan State under Tom Izzo. The Flyers were Atlantic 10 champions and will likely be favored to repeat this season,
“I think they have a lot of good plans for the future with the new coach,” Roberts said. “The campus is nice. Not too big, but a good atmosphere. The players are real cool, and I just like it all around.”
Prep players cannot make an official commitment until national signing day in November.
“I think it's a good fit for Brian,” veteran Titan coach Ed Heintschel said. “All along, Brian probably wanted to go somewhere close to home. That was pretty important. His family is very close and they want to see him play.
“Dayton is a good fit for that. They have done pretty well recently with NCAA appearances and so forth, and I know Brian is hoping to get a chance to play in the tournament. It's not automatic, but he has a good chance at that.”
The Titan star, a talented hybrid of point guard and shooting guard, also had scholarship offers from Georgia, Nebraska, South Florida and Wichita State, along with Toledo, Bowling Green, Akron and Miami of the Mid-American Conference.
“I wanted to try to play higher than the MAC, and I wanted to see what the Atlantic 10 was like,” Roberts said. “Dayton fit that. At both Dayton and Georgia I was told I'd be getting a lot of minutes soon, in my freshman year. That was a factor.”
After exploring his options, the conclusion Roberts drew was that the situations at Georgia and Nebraska lacked some stability, especially Georgia. That Southeastern Conference power experienced some controversy late last season with head coach Jim Herrick being fired after allegations of academic fraud. The Bulldogs are awaiting possible NCAA sanctions.
Roberts, whose primary intent was to select a school before the 2003-04 high school season began, said two weeks ago that he might instead consider waiting until after the basketball season to make his decision.
Such a delay would give more colleges a chance to see him play, create additional offers, and maximize his options.
The greatest interest in Roberts was generated by his play this summer with All Ohio Red, a Columbus-based AAU team. He made the all-tournament team in tourneys at Fort Wayne, Ind., Cincinnati and Columbus. He also gained significant exposure at the Five Star camp in Virginia and at the invitation-only Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis.
The Dayton visit convinced Roberts to act now.
“When you wait, you take a risk on losing what you already have,” Roberts said. “Colleges won't wait forever for you. If things would have worked out after the season, that's good. But if they don't, you could be left with nothing.”
Roberts averaged 19.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season as a junior, his second as a starter, as St. John's made its strong tourney run. He shot 45 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line. He received first-team All-City League and all-district honors, and was named CL player of the year.
Roberts, who carries a 3.7 grade-point average at St. John's, is undecided on a major at Dayton, but may select engineering or business administration.
Roberts is pleased to get the college decision behind him so he can concentrate on his promising senior year. The Titans return three key starters from the final-four team.
“It was on my mind the whole summer, trying to impress coaches and see where I could go,” he said. “Now that I've made my decision, I can go out and have fun and not worry about too much.”
Heintschel assessed Dayton and Roberts as a good match.
“I think this will stretch him basketball-wise,” Heintschel said. “I think it's a challenge for him. Obviously, he's a talented guy and he's still improving. If he loves the game enough, he'll continue to work and he'll be a good fit there.”