Onetime St. John's Pledge Ronald Roberts Now Dancing With St. Joe's | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / June 15.
  • Onetime St. John’s Pledge Ronald Roberts Now Dancing With St. Joe’s

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    BUFFALO — Ronald Roberts and St. Joe’s were playing against St. John’s in  the first round of the NIT last season when he had his first interaction with Johnnies head coach Steve Lavin.

    “He stopped me and he said he would like to talk to me about everything that happened because he never called me [during recruiting] or nothing like that,” the 6-foot-8 Roberts, who starred at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, told here as St. Joe’s prepared to play UConn in an East Region game Thursday evening.

    Reflecting on the game, which the Johnnies won, Lavin told “It’s nice when it works out for everyone. I had the opportunity to briefly speak with Ronald after our NIT game at St. Joe’s last season and it was evident he is a true gentleman. I’m happy that he has had an outstanding career at St. Joe’s.”

    The 6-foot-8 Roberts had initially signed with St. John’s in November 2009 when he committed to play for then-coach Norm Roberts.

    But after the great purge of the spring of 2010 — in which Norm Roberts, Rutgers’ Fred Hill and Seton Hall’s Bobby Gonzalez were all fired — Ronald Roberts was left in flux.

    Lavin was hired at St. John’s and opted to bring in his own recruits.

    “I committed there while Coach Norm Roberts was there and then Coach Norm Roberts got fired and Lavin came in and pretty much he wanted to bring his own kid in, the kid Dwayne Polee,” Ronald Roberts said. “He wanted to bring him in.”

    “I can understand that. College basketball is a business. He didn’t know me at all, he didn’t recruit me, so then at the end of the day I had to go into recruiting again and make another decision.”

    Roberts said the process was difficult, but he eventually settled on St. Joe’s in May 2010 because coach Phil Martelli had loyally recruited him all along.

    “I thought I was done with getting recruited and stuff,” Roberts said. “The process was kind of overwhelming and I had to to do it again and I wanted to just make a quick transition. I picked St. Joe’s because of the loyalty and Coach Martelli coming to a lot of games and stuff like that. St. Joe’s was my first offer. I just ran with St. Joe’s and I loved every minute of it.”

    Four years later, Polee and Roberts are both dancing. After one year at St. John’s, the 6-7 Polee, whom Lavin was familiar with from his time in California, transferred back home to San Diego State, where he averaged 7.9 points and 3.1 rebounds this season. The Aztecs open against New Mexico State Thursday night.

    Lavin, whose team lost in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris, ended up with several blockbuster recruits in 2011, ’12 and ’13, including JaKarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison, Chris Obekpa and Rysheed Jordan.

    At. St Joe’s, Roberts became a human highlight-reel by averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds this season while making the A-10 All-Tournament team when St. Joe’s won it in Brooklyn.

    St. Peter’s Prep coach Todd Decker went to support Roberts in the A-10 final at Barclays Center, and Roberts says he remains in close touch with Decker and his staff. Roberts said he’s impressed with the talented young group of players at his alma mater, especially 6-6 sophomore Veer Singh.

    “I was rooting them on,” Roberts said of St. Peter’s Prep, which has won back-to-back New Jersey North Non-Public A titles. “They have a good sophomore class so they’re going to be alright.”

    “Ronald comes back often and is around the current players,” Decker said. “He’s a great role model.”

    After competing in the NIT as a sophomore and junior, Roberts is excited to finally play in the NCAAs.

    “I was confident just because my sophomore year we were actually very close to being ranked Top 25,” Roberts said of making the NCAAs. “You can’t ever give up. If you have pride and you believe in your team, and you believe in your program, that’s how I felt. I believed in the program and look where we are now.”

    Martelli praised Roberts for being able to transition from a pure offensive force into more of a defensive presence under the basket.

    “The beauty of the person with him has allowed the basketball player to come out and keep continuing to grow,” Martelli said. “And I think maybe in three years from now he’s even going to be a much better player than he is today.”

    Entering his first NCAA Tournament, Roberts says it would mean something special if the Hawks are able to make a run. If they beat UConn, they could face No. 2 Villanova in the third round in a potential Big 5 matchup.

    “I want to play for as long as I could,” he said. “I’m a senior. After this I’m done playing college basketball. I want to go as far as I could.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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