In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Maureen Fulton talked with Brian Roberts, a St. John's Jesuit graduate and former University of Dayton star who is playing professional basketball in Israel.
Brian Roberts' basketball talents and leadership have left a lasting impression everywhere he's played.
Roberts is now halfway around the world making a living playing the sport, but hoping to help young Toledoans who are aspiring college athletes like he once was.
After graduating from the University of Dayton last May, Roberts, 23, is in his first season playing for Galil Gilboa in Israel. He leads his team with 15.5 points per game in a team-high 31.4 minutes, also contributing 2.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. His team is currently fifth in the standings of the 12-team Israeli Basketball Super League with a 9-6 record. Roberts, a 6-foot-2 guard, is shooting 53 percent from the floor and 86 percent from the foul line.
At Dayton, Roberts finished in the top 10 in 10 different career statistical categories. He is the all-time best 3-point shooter in Dayton history, atop school records with 293 3-pointers and a 44.1 shooting percentage. Roberts ended his career fourth in scoring with 1,962 points. He also tied a school record playing in 125 games in a row.
Roberts was the first Dayton player to receive All-Atlantic 10 honors three years in a row. He averaged 15.7 points per game for his career and led the Flyers in scoring in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. That followed up his high school career at St. John's when he was Ohio's Division I co-player of the year in 2004, leading the Titans to the state final.
From afar, Roberts has become part of Team Toledo, a new AAU program and non-profit organization headed by Jim Jackson. The goal of the program is to provide a local AAU team and also help the participants build life skills. Roberts will be the director of player personnel and will visit Toledo to help with the organization when his season ends in May. Tryouts are March 15 at Toledo Christian.
"I PLAYED for two NBA teams this past summer, for Orlando and the Lakers, but I didn't make the teams. So the next best opportunity for my career was the offer from this team in Israel, Galil Gilboa. The style of play is a little different, but it is still basketball. It has some different rules, it is a bit more physical. The league has a lot of Americans. On my team, there are four of us. They don't necessarily expect the Americans to lead in scoring but Americans/foreigners are expected to play very important roles and make the team successful. The season is over with in May, so I'll be heading back to the states around the end of May. I plan on working out, preparing for NBA summer league again and trying to make a team.
"I know what is seen on the news makes people think Israel is not a good place to be, but it is not like that at all. It is a very beautiful country. All the unrest is basically in one spot that is isolated from the rest of the country. I am about an hour north of Tel Aviv. I did have to get used to hearing the Israeli planes and jets flying daily. I haven't felt unsafe at all. I am enjoying this experience a lot. It is very Americanized here, and pretty much everyone can speak English. So the transition to living overseas is very easy."
"TEAM TOLEDO is a program for young, aspiring basketball players that also helps them academically and gets these student-athletes into the eyes of college programs around the country. This is a chance to give back to the city that made me. It will be a huge success in the Toledo area. I wanted to help kids out in Toledo, to have a program that keeps them in Toledo for AAU and not have to travel to other cities with bigger programs for 'exposure.' There have always been talented kids in Toledo, but not always opportunities to utilize their talent and develop them to get to good colleges. Team Toledo not only helps them expand their talents, but also academically as well. I thought it was a no-brainer to be a part of it."
"DAYTON IS doing extremely well, and I'm happy to see them succeed. Many didn't know how things would be this year, including me. I knew they had the talent to be special, and they have proven that. The love and support that UD gets is something that I enjoyed the most. It is a unique community/family there in Dayton that not many colleges can match."