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Ryan Thorburn on Andre Roberson's Decision to Enter the NBA Draft

Thorburn on Roberson's legacy with the Colorado Buffaloes


I had the good fortune of covering Andre Roberson's entire career at Colorado, from his very first workout with fellow spring 2010 signee Ben Mills through his successful Pac-12 defensive player of the year campaign.

It became pretty clear to me on March 22 that I was witnessing Roberson's final run with the Buffaloes.

Out of respect for Tad Boyle, the junior forward thought long and hard about returning for his senior season at CU before finally declaring himself eligible for the NBA draft on Sunday hours before the deadline.

But the family decision had already been made as Roberson played what turned out to be his final collegiate game in Austin, Texas, just up the road from his childhood home.

The Buffs trailed Illinois by 16 points at the intermission of the NCAA Tournament game. When the players returned to the court for the second half, a voice bellowed down from the stands.

"Ski ... let's go! This is it!"

It was Roberson's father, John, imploring the Buffs to make one final stand with his son and for Askia Booker to spark the team on the offensive end.The sophomore shooting guard responded with back-to-back 3-pointers that ignited a stunning 23-2 spurt by CU.

The Illini shook off the haymaker and held on for the 57-49 victory. Roberson walked off the court for the final time as an amateur with nine points,eight rebounds, two steals, two assists and one very telling quote.

"It's a terrible way to go out, or even end your career, one and done in the NCAA Tournament," Roberson said.
A lot of people who don't know Roberson are going to say he's making a terrible decision.

After all, the skinny, 6-7 rebounding machine doesn't have the offensive skill set necessary to guarantee himself a first-round contract.

But it's unlikely Roberson would have been able to develop into more of a scorer at CU next season anyway. Boyle's gifted 2013-14 squad returns Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie, Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson and adds Wesley Gordon, Chris Jenkins, Jaron Hopkins,Tre'Shaun Fletcher and Dustin Thomas.

That's why Boyle, clearly tired of the process, bluntly stated at a season-ending press conference that Roberson's decision wouldn't make or break the rising program his very first first CU recruit helped turn around.

This year's draft is considered to be one of the weakest in recent memory with a historically strong one-and-done 2014 class headed to Kentucky and other blue blood programs this summer.

Roberson's ability to defend multiple positions and rebound in Rodman-like fashion (sans the blonde hair, nose ring and wedding dress) should eventually lead to a lucrative gig in the NBA.

Before realizing the ultimate hoops dream, Roberson may have to prove himself in the D-League. There's no doubt the journey could get painful on draft night if his name isn't called in the second round.

And it certainly won't be a glamorous winter riding buses, eating fast food and staying in two-star hotels while the Buffs are battling Arizona and UCLA in front of a sold-out crowds at the Coors Events Center while pursuing a third consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Perhaps the decision will work out well for Roberson and the Buffs.

Boyle will miss Roberson -- the team leader in rebounds, steals and blocks the last three seasons -- especially in November. But this long, athletic, deep team is still built for March.

John Roberson is convinced his son will be able to make at least one general manager or coach realize that he belongs on an NBA roster, which is all it takes.

Boyle will miss Roberson -- the team leader in rebounds, steals and blocks the last three seasons -- especially in November. But this long, athletic, deep team is still built for March.

Let's not forget that Alec Burks' decision to exit the program two years early led to a spectacular ending for Carlon Brown/Nate Tomlinson and great beginnings for Booker/Dinwiddie.

Five years ago it would have been laughable to predict that the biggest problem facing CU basketball was losing players early to the NBA.

Hopefully, Roberson will be able to return to Boulder with his good friend Burks next season as they take a break from work during the All-Star weekend.