Andre Roberson can dunk. We’ve already established that.
But what else is there to know about the Thunder’s 26th overall pick, a relative mystery man projected to go somewhere in the second round before Sam Presti surprisingly plucked him late in the first.
I talked with former Boulder Camera CU beat writer Ryan Thorburn, who covered all of Roberson’s games the past three years. He had plenty of informative stuff on the 6-foot-7 rebounding machine who won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season:
Q: Was Roberson a big-time prospect coming in?
“No, he was actually Tad Boyle’s first recruit ever at CU. Tad was hired in April of 2010 and Andre was still available and he hired him in that late spring recruiting period. So not that highly regarded in the recruiting world.”
So he was basically an unknown when he got to campus?
“Yeah, he was an unknown. Boyle inherited that team that had Alec Burks, who was first round two years ago (Utah Jazz) and Cory Higgins, who played in the NBA and some other older players, but Andre came in and was the sixth man right away and actually led the team in steals and rebounding and blocks. You could tell he had a special knack for rebounding. He was immediately the team’s best rebounder and one of the best in the Big 12 (his freshman year was CU’s last in the Big 12) and that was a strong league at the time.”
By the time Roberson was a sophomore, was it kind of his team?
“Yeah, he became more of a team leader, although they still had Carlon Brown and Nate Tomlinson as the vocal leaders. Andre is very quiet and unassuming. He did his best to be a vocal leader last year, but he’s more of a lead by example type of player.”
Sounds like he’s soft-spoken off the court, which would fit the Thunder way. Describe his personality.
Yeah, he really is soft-spoken.
How about quote-wise?
He’s very accommodating, doesn’t have a lot of great quotes. Soft-spoken and has some cliches. He’s not a brash guy, but occasionally for big games he’ll give you a good quote if he’s fired up.
He left a year early. From what I read, it sounds like it was a surprise up there.
“He’s really good friends with Alec Burks, who left early and went in the lottery. So I’m not sure how much that played into it. But Andre really rolled the dice on himself. No one I know really thought it was a great decision, so for him to be a first round pick and show everyone that he made the right decision, that’s really a great story.”
Did you see him projected this high anywhere you looked?
“All of the Internet gurus had him in the 50s. And Boyle was really disappointed because when underclassmen are thinking about declaring, they get the information from the NBA where you’re projected. And a second-rounder or undrafted was the information they got, so Boyle was disappointed that he made that decision. But it obviously looks like a great decision now. Andre is a first round pick and gets that guaranteed money and is on a team that can develop him and use him as role player starting out.”
The word on him out there is that he shows up big in advanced stats. What makes him so appealing to the stat gurus?
“I think from a personality standpoint he’s a complete opposite, but the comparison that I’ve heard many people make are between him and Dennis Rodman. He’s skinny, only 6-(foot)-7, but when the ball goes up, Andre’s always the one that finds it. I don’t know how he reads the ball. But the funny thing about Andre, he basically led the nation in rebounding, a guy passed him at the end of the year when he had mono, but he averaged 11-something rebounds per game and he doesn’t block out. He gets all these rebounds on instincts. I can remember a couple games last year on the road, I think it was at Fresno and Oregon, where he won the game on the last second on an offensive rebound putback. He just has a knack for that. So when you have a team like the Thunder that already has scoring in place, he can be a short version of Serge Ibaka maybe down the line.”
You mentioned he had mono. Did he sit out some games for that?
“I believe he only missed two games with it. Oregon at home and at Oregon State. It’s funny though, his best game offensively, and that’s the knock on him, was at Stanford. He was really, really sick, they thought it was just the flu, but it turned out to be mono. But he had 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting, including some dagger three-pointers to win the game by two. So when he was in his worst health, he had his best offensive game at CU.”
As you said, his offensive skill has been kind of talked about as an area he needs work. Where’s it at?
“I think he has the ability to develop one. But the shooting percentage went down last year. And for a guy that athletic, he didn’t really create his own shot very well. I think that’s what the assistant coaches in the NBA will be able to work on, just shooting more consistently and creating his own shot. The reason he is a first round pick is because he’s going to be able to rebound with anyone and will be able to guard multiple positions. I was thinking last night when they drafted him, I wonder how often he’ll guard Kevin Durant in practice. That’ll be fun to watch. When I thought he had a chance at the NBA was his sophomore year at the end of the season against Baylor. Baylor had three NBA bodies: Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III. And Andre played a hell of a game and held his own. So he has a way of finding the ball and D’ing up multiple positions. In college anyway, he can guard point guards all the way down to post players.”
You can follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RyanThorburn