Sixers May Have Found a Diamond in the Rough with Ronald Roberts Jr.
Ronald Roberts Jr. has seemingly been flying under the radar his entire basketball career, an odd twist for a player who lives playing above the rim.
Despite coming from a basketball family, Roberts came out of St. Peter's Prep in Bayonne, NJ relatively unheralded, ranked by ESPN as a 2-star recruit and the 189th best power forward in the 2010 high school class. Still, he generated a fair amount of attention locally, eventually signing a national letter of intent to go play for Norm Roberts at St. John's.
Roberts Jr. would eventually be released from his letter of intent after St. John's fired Norm Roberts. Steve Lavin took over as head coach of the Red Storm, letting Roberts Jr. out of his national letter of intent, eventually using the scholarship that Roberts' would have received on Dwayne Polee II. Polee ended up transferring to San Diego State after only one year with St. John's and has yet to have a season where he has played more than 18 minutes per night or average double digits in scoring.
With little time left in the recruiting process, Roberts selected St. Joe's. Or, more specifically, he selected Phil Martelli.
"I winded up picking St. Joe's because I trusted coach Martelli," Roberts Jr. said to LibertyBallers in a recent interview. "He treated me like a man since I was a junior in high school, so I really appreciated that."
The turn of events could seem disappointing at first, with St. John's making the NCAA Tournament in what would have been Roberts' freshman season there, falling to Gonzaga in the first round. St. Joe's, on the other hand, went 11-22 during Roberts' freshman year, Phil Martelli's second consecutive losing season, which have been the only two losing seasons Martelli has had in the 21st century.
Their fates would change quickly, however, as St. John's would go 30-35 over the next two seasons. St. Joe's, meanwhile, was gaining steam. They would bounce back by going 20-14 during Roberts' sophomore season, with Roberts playing a big role on the team. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in 25 minutes per game for the Hawks, on his way to winning the Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year award while also capturing the Robert O'Neill Memorial award as the Hawks most improved player, an award he would win each of his first three seasons at St. Joe's.
Roberts went on to start every game of his junior and senior seasons, being voted as the most valuable player on the St. Joe's Hawks both of those years. His senior year saw the Hawks finish the regular season with a 21-9 record, which they followed up by going on to win the Altantic 10 championship over VCU, a game in which Roberts scored 15 points on 6 field goal attempts, while grabbing 7 rebounds in the process. That set up their first NCAA Tournament appearance during Roberts' collegiate career and only the second NCAA Tournament appearance for Phil Martelli since that magical run ended in 2004.
The Hawks would fall just short, losing an overtime thriller to 8th ranked UConn, with Roberts contributing 15 points and 5 rebounds.