The 6'9", 235-pound junior forward scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a season-opening win over Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 22 and has led Mississippi State to a 6-0 start, averaging 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds a game. "It's been kind of weird adjusting to a different situation," he says, "but it's getting easier as the games go on."
Roberts also considered Arizona and Indiana, but he saw an opportunity to play a lot of minutes with the Bulldogs, whose best player, 6'9" Mario Austin, left school early to enter the NBA draft. State's top recruit, 6'8" Travis Outlaw decided to enter the draft and skip college entirely. It has turned out to be a windfall for Mississippi State, since Roberts has shown the same skills that made him the Big 12's leading re-bounder in conference play last season, with 11.3 boards a game. "He's not one of those guys who creates a lot of space for himself; he just explodes to the ball," says Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury. "We'll be tweaking things for him as we go, but so far he's fit in perfectly."
Given what all the Baylor players had gone through in the off-season, Stansbury decided to handle Roberts's transition with the utmost delicacy. The school declined all requests to interview Roberts during the preseason, and Stansbury arranged for him to meet with a psychologist. "Every now and then I'll see something on the news about it, but I still can't believe everything that happened," says Roberts, who adds that playing—and playing well—has been his best therapy.
His coach agrees. "The start of the season has helped him heal," says Stansbury. "He has a new chapter in his life now."
No. 1 and Trying To Stay There
On Monday, Florida became the third team to claim the No. 1 ranking this season. By comparison, only five teams held the top spot all of last year. "There are about 30 teams that deserve to be ranked in the Top 10," Kansas coach Bill Self said last Saturday after his top-ranked Jayhawks lost to Stanford 64-58. Self's team was No. 6 two weeks ago but ascended to No. 1 when four of the five teams ahead of the Jayhawks all lost. That was the biggest leap to the top since West Virginia jumped from No. 8 in 1957....
UCLA (2-1) showed its first signs of fight under new coach Ben Howland during a 52-50 loss to No. 9 Kentucky on Saturday at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, and now Howland is looking forward to Dec. 17, when 6'9" senior T.J. Cummings is expected to become academically eligible and 6'7" freshman Trevor Ariza (collapsed lung) is scheduled to return to the lineup....
UConn got a welcome addition on Saturday when 6'10" freshman Charlie Villanueva made his long-awaited debut with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists and three blocks in a 74-46 rout of Army. UConn (6-1) had held Villanueva out of games while the NCAA and school investigated him for possible rules violations, but he was cleared to play last Friday....
The most shocking score last week was Holy Cross's 78-71 loss to Williams, a Division III school, last Thursday. The Ephs, who are the defending Division III champs, have won 25 straight games, the nation's longest winning streak at any level, but it was still a surprise to see them beat the Crusaders, who have been to three straight NCAA tournaments.