The consensus around Boulder, Colo., was unmistakable: Andre Roberson's decision to go pro was a mistake.
That's what he's consistently heard the past two months, ever since announcing his intention to skip his senior season at Colorado for a shot in the NBA.
Media members were surprised. Draft gurus labeled him a late second-rounder. Even his coach and mentor, Tad Boyle, showed disappointment.
"Listen, I support Andre and I respect his decision," Boyle told the Denver Post at the time. "But I don't agree with his decision."
Roberson gambled on himself, believing his relentless energy yet calm personality would impress teams during the pre-draft process.
And he won, going 26th overall to the Thunder on Thursday night, securing guaranteed money and forcing those who initially questioned him to eat crow.
Boyle even sent his former player a draft night text, saying: “What the heck do I know? Congratulations.”
So what was it about the 6-foot-7 forward with a slender frame and limited offensive game that had the Thunder enamored enough to move up three picks?
Simply put: Defense and rebounding.
Roberson is an animal on the glass, averaging the second-most rebounds (11.2 per game) in the nation last season, consistently out-hustling and outsmarting taller opponents.
As a sophomore, Roberson had eight games with 15 or more rebounds. As a junior, he put up double-digits in 21 of CU's 33 games, including a pair of 20-rebound performances.
“I think my athletic ability is key and my knack for the ball, willingness to pursue it,” Roberson said of his rebounding proficiency. “And I'm resilient, resilient going after it.”
And relentless, too, in his defensive effort, which is largely what attracted teams.
Roberson is lengthy, with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, regularly disrupting offensive flow with deflections. He averaged 2.2 steals per game last season (second in the conference) and 1.3 blocks (eighth in the conference).
“His defensive impact is certainly supported by the numbers, as well as what you're seeing when you evaluate a player on film or in person,” Sam Presti said.
“Andre is someone who caught our attention a few years ago. His persistence, his activity and his endurance within the game as a competitor are all signs of a player that's going to continue to improve with hard work and development.”
Of the three rookies, Roberson may have the best chance to make an immediate impact. At 21, he's a bit more older and polished than the other two 19-year-old rookies and, as Presti said, already “knows his game” and “understands his role”.
And part of that role will be guarding the stars in practice, including three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, who earlier this week said: “It's not like any rookie is going to come in and have an immediate impact, especially on our team.”
“I guess that's a challenge to us,” Roberson said when told of that statement. “I'm willing to take that on for sure. He hasn't seen any of us play yet, I don't think, so he'll be shocked.”