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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

Sidelines: A valuable point

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Darryl Roberts, a 5-11 junior guard, puts St. Francis (11-3, 7-1 CL) in good position to secure a berth in the four-team City playoffs.
Darryl Roberts, a 5-11 junior guard, puts St. Francis (11-3, 7-1 CL) in good position to secure a berth in the four-team City playoffs.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

Who is the best basketball player in the City League?

Most would answer B.J. Raymond of St. John s Jesuit, the reigning Blade player of the year, a second-team All-Ohioan last season, and regarded by some experts as Ohio s top senior player.

But, if CL coaches were asked to pick the player most valuable to his team this season, it would be difficult to ignore Darryl Roberts of St. Francis de Sales.

Even if Knights coach Nick Lowe practices his team diplomacy, he would have to admit that his squad would likely be average without Roberts.

With the 5-11 junior guard, however, St. Francis (11-3, 7-1 CL) is in good position to secure a berth in the four-team City playoffs.

Whether it be penetrating for a basket, an assist or to draw a foul (84-percent shooter at the free-throw line), or pulling up for a jumper, Roberts has thrived despite frequent double teams and other defensive strategies.

He leads the City League in scoring at 23.5 points per game, 39 percent of the Knights 59.6 average. In league play he has been even better, scoring at a 26.0 clip.

Opposing coaches are sold on Roberts value:

• To me he is the league MVP, said Clay coach Joe Guerrero, whose team lost 47-45 to St. Francis, thanks to Roberts 26 points.

He s not the best player in the league, but he s taken a group of guys who are very average and elevated them to one of the top four teams in the league. We tried everything against him. But his teammates did a good job of getting him open and getting him the ball, and he did a good job of finishing.

• He makes everyone better on his team, Whitmer s Bruce Smith said. There s a few ways to do that. One is by being unselfish and sharing the ball, and he does that. But, he s also so good that you have to commit more than one defender to him. He s an excellent player. Roberts scored 30 in a 60-42 win over Whitmer

• He does so much for that team, Central Catholic coach Paul Patterson said. Roberts scored 32 in a 55-48 win over the Irish. He s a star with some solid role players around him. Teams have done a lot of things to try to stop him. You try to keep it out of his hands because once he s got the ball he s almost unguardable. He s smart and plays under control. If you come up on him, he ll drive right by you. If you play off, he ll knock down the jumper. If you use some help defense, he ll dish off for a layup. He s a great player.

Lowe acknowledges that Roberts is the Knights go-to guy.

Darryl has a tremendous value on our team, Lowe said. Kids look up to him for what he does on the floor, and how he conducts himself off the floor.

He s very mild-mannered. If you watch his expressions in a game, you wouldn t know whether we re up 10 or down 10. He never seems to get too high or too low.

Lowe was counting on Roberts to carry the scoring load, and hasn t been disappointed.

This is the first time in his life he s gotten this much attention, as far as from opponents, and he s done a good job with it, Lowe said. He s been our leading scorer in every game, and he s also our leading assist man (5 per game) and our leader in steals (3). He s doing a good job of getting teammates involved, and I think we re doing a better job now of playing around him.

Roberts knew what was expected.

Being that I played last year, I have the most varsity experience, and my teammates were looking for me to score and take over the leadership role, Roberts said. So far I m handling it pretty well, and things are going pretty well for us right now.

Roberts, who averaged 10.7 points and was All-CL third team as a sophomore, credits his improvement to offseason work. That included AAU summer play on the Cincinnati-based D-I Greyhounds with well-known teammates O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker and Keenan Ellis of Cincinnati North College Hill, who are each ranked among the top prep players in the country. The age 16-and-under Greyhounds placed second in an AAU national tournament in Houston, and fourth in the prestigious Las Vegas Big Time (open) tournament.

That helped me a bunch because I was playing against some of the best players from across the nation, Roberts said. It helped me up my level of game competing against those guys.

Roberts insists his contributions are no greater than those of his teammates.

It s part of my role as point guard to see everything on the floor and get my teammates in the right spots, he said. We all have prominent roles. I may have a bigger piece of the pie, but we all have our parts to play and we all do well.

They set screens for me and get me the ball. I just knock down shots.

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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