Hawks product Roberts still hopeful of living NBA dream

Posted: July 03, 2014

LAST WEEK, when the final NBA pick was sent in around midnight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and former Saint Joseph's forward Ronald Roberts Jr.'s name wasn't called, he didn't panic.

He called his agents from Pensack Sports and decided the best opportunity for his career was to play in two summer leagues, one in Las Vegas with the Miami Heat and one with the Sixers, who practice less than a mile from the St. Joe's campus at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

But before Roberts ended the night deciding on his future, he brought back a major part of his past. He called Hawks coach Phil Martelli, whom he helped lead to an Atlantic 10 Tournament title, and sought advice.

Martelli picked up his former player's spirits and reminded him of the key qualities that NBA teams admired in Roberts during workouts: his unmatched energy and unbelievable character.

"My goal is to play harder than everyone else and to stand out by hustling," Roberts said yesterday following his first day of practice with the Sixers. "After I went undrafted, [Martelli] told me he believed in me and I told him that I'll show [NBA teams] what I can do."

He continued: "My agent told me a couple hours after the draft that the best opportunity for me would be with the Sixers and play with the Miami Heat in Las Vegas. Whatever he tells me is best, I'm going to do."

Roberts averaged 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Hawks in his senior season. The 6-8, 225-pound forward from Bayonne, N.J., finished his career ranked 20th on the Hawks' all-time scoring list and 12th in SJU history for total rebounds.

The A-10 third-team selection said he is excited for his opportunity with the Sixers, but he still hasn't forgotten that the Hawks were one rebound away from potentially beating Connecticut, the eventual national champions, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I didn't think they were going to go that far," Roberts said about the Huskies. "I worked out with Shabazz [Napier] a few times in predraft, and I told him congrats. It was good to see them win, because they were a good team, but I honestly didn't think they were going to win it all."

College championships or not, Roberts has done enough to get a look from the Sixers. He's a touted dunker and strong rebounder who played with a motor last season that has convinced teams he is worth a spot on their summer-league teams.

But in Martelli's eyes, Roberts brings something intangible to the table that most players don't have: his attitude.

"Sometime in August in September, he's going to be chasing his dream and playing professional basketball," Martelli said in a phone interview yesterday afternoon.

"The first thing he's going to bring is an impeccable character. And in a league that I believe has put heavy emphasis on the people that get to call themselves 'NBA players,' you aren't going to find a better human being than Ronald Roberts.

"He's going to bring a work ethic that's second to none, and he's going to bring excitement to a coach. People know about the athletic ability and the dunking and stuff, but what the NBA teams have grown to love is his unmatched energy and love for basketball. He has an awfully, awfully bright future."

On Twitter: @TylerRickyTynes

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