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Published: Wednesday, 6/25/2008

Ex-Titan Roberts has eye on draft

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Brian Roberts dribbles past familiar foe David Lighty of Ohio State in the NIT. The three-time MVP at Dayton believes he has a chance to be picked up late in the second round. Brian Roberts dribbles past familiar foe David Lighty of Ohio State in the NIT. The three-time MVP at Dayton believes he has a chance to be picked up late in the second round.
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Like most recent college graduates, Brian Roberts is currently in the midst of a job search.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, however, the former St. John's Jesuit and University of Dayton basketball star has a much more lucrative entry-level position in mind.

Roberts, 22, is seeking a roster spot in the NBA, and he may find out if he will get a final interview (training camp) by tomorrow night, when the NBA holds its 2008 draft in New York.

Roberts doesn't believe he will be chosen in the first of the NBA's two draft rounds, but thinks there is a slight chance at a late second-round pick. More likely is a post-draft free-agent opportunity, However things transpire, he seeks only the opportunity to get in a camp to win a roster spot. Professional basketball in Europe is also an option.

"I really don't know," Roberts said of his prospects. "I'll just have to wait and see. Sometimes it's a better situation if you don't get drafted, because you can wind up with a team that really likes you and can bring you in [as a free agent].''

The three-time UD most valuable player plans to watch the NBA draft with his parents - Nolan Jr. and Ann Roberts - at their home in Atlanta. With their departure two years ago from Toledo after each retired, Brian no longer has immediate family ties to Toledo. Older brother Nolan, 34, who played basketball at Valparaiso, resides in the Cleveland area. Sister Shaunda, 32, who played at Kentucky and the University of Toledo, has lived in Atlanta for nine years.

Roberts, a 6-2, 175-pound guard, graduated with a marketing degree from Dayton on May 4. He may prove to be marketable to NBA teams with his blend of point guard and shooting guard skill. Always an efficient ballhandler, Roberts hit 44 percent of his 3-point attempts (293 of 662) during his accomplished four-year career with the Flyers, including a 46-percent effort (100 of 220) as a senior for a 23-11 UD squad. He averaged 18.4 points per game as a senior en route to first-team honors in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

"I felt, after my junior year at Dayton, I might have a shot at the NBA," Roberts said. "I knew, if I kept working on my game and had a real good senior year, that I had a possibility to make it to this point where I'm on the brink of fulfilling a dream."

Roberts' stock rose when he led Dayton to an impressive 14-1 start and No. 14 national ranking. That was before his sinus infection and injuries to other Flyers slowed the team's progress thereafter.

The college stage of his basketball life ended March 26 with a 74-63 loss in the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals to eventual champion Ohio State at Value City Arena in Columbus. That was the same court on which his superb three-year varsity career with St. John's closed in a 51-48 loss to Hamilton in the 2004 Division I state championship game. Roberts tallied 20 points in his college finale and 18 in his prep swan song.

"Playing back in Toledo started opening up opportunities for me," Roberts said. "It was the beginning of a long journey. Playing for coach [Ed] Heintschel at St. John's was good because he had already seen good college players come through, and he was just a good coach overall. That was a good experience for me."

Although Roberts still wishes the Titans could have managed to score four more points back in the 2004 state final, these days he is concerned only with new beginnings.

He took his final exams at UD early so that he could embark on his next basketball mission.

Roberts gained membership at the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he honed his basketball skills twice daily, and received state-of-the-art training to improve his all-around physical strength, speed and agility. He still holds a condo room at the academy, but lately he has been on the move auditioning his talent from coast to coast. His stops included two major pre-draft camps, and workouts with 11 different NBA teams.

He was one of 75 players invited to the main NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla. (May 22-June 2), where he was tested on a variety of physical skills, and averaged 13 points in three games. He also turned in one 13-assist contest. Roberts also was one of 60 players welcomed to the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational in early May.

In between and after those events, he has worked out for Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Charlotte, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Miami and, most recently, he was in Los Angeles Monday and yesterday to audition for the Clippers and Lakers.

"They bring you in to see you up close," Roberts said. "They already know you can play. What I wanted to show them was my shooting skill, because that's what attracted them to me in the first place. I also wanted them to see that I've improved my point-guard skills and that I'm able to run a team.

"It's evident in watching the NBA game that it's a faster game now, and speed is a big key. Teams are going smaller and looking to be more versatile."

Roberts agent is Josh Nochimson, who also represents the Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng.

"It's definitely an exciting time," Roberts said. "I've been traveling a lot over the last three weeks, going to different cities and living out of a suitcase.

"It's been tiring, but it's definitely worth it. I'm just looking for an opportunity. That's all I can really ask for.

"I know some teams like me, and I just have to play my best and try to make their roster."

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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