Brian Roberts was a prolific scorer at the University of Dayton and became one of the top players on the European circuit because of his seemingly automatic jump shot.
But before the New Orleans Hornets sent the 6-foot-1 guard off to Las Vegas with their summer league team in July, they said they wanted him to facilitate their offense rather than trying to become the focal point of it.
“They kind of had an idea I could score and I could shoot, but the NBA is full of guys who can do that,” he said. “They just wanted to see if I could manage a team, run a team and get the big guys involved.”
Roberts did all of that during his five-game stint, and he parlayed a solid showing into a two-year contract with the Hornets that is believed to be worth roughly $475,000 annually. Barring any surprises during training camp, the 26-year-old Toledo native has been told he has a spot on the roster this season.
Attempts to reach front-office personnel for the Hornets were unsuccessful, but the team’s Web site lists 14 players, one short of the NBA maximum. The list includes Roberts. And a spokesman for the club said, “We consider that our team, although we’ll still bring in some players during training camp for practice.”
Roberts said: “They’re saying, ‘You’re on the team — you just have to come to camp and perform like you played in the summer league,’ play how they know I can. It’s not a fully guaranteed contract, but they have it in place where I’m going to be on the team. As long as I do the things that got me to this point, everything will be fine.
“Basically, the way I’m looking at it and they’re looking at it is I’m an official New Orleans Hornet for this season and next season.”
Roberts was given the good news by the Hornets on July 30, the same day as his wedding anniversary.
“It was an exciting time, I guess you could say.”
Roberts played one year in Israel after leaving the Flyers and then three years with the top pro team in Germany, working his way up to a fairly lucrative six-figure contract.
He’s had auditions with other summer league teams but never found the right fit. Thinking he may be looking at his last shot to make an NBA roster, Roberts averaged 13.8 points and 2.2 assists in about 27 minutes per game. He shot 50 percent from the field, 54.5 from 3-point range and 93.8 from the foul line.
“Basically, when I was out in Vegas, everyone is anxious, everyone wants to play well, everyone wants to put their best foot forward,” he said. “But I just tried to calm myself down and just say, ‘God, if you want this to happen, just let it happen.’ And I went out with some confidence and showed what I could do.”
Roberts was among about 75 players sent to the NBA Rookie Transition Program in New Jersey earlier this week, joining a couple of Hornets draft picks, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Duke’s Austin Rivers.
He would have preferred a quicker path to the NBA, but his European experience helped him to develop his point-guard skills after playing mostly shooting guard at UD.
“It wasn’t the ideal or storybook way of getting to the league. You don’t tell a kid, ‘Oh, yeah, you can go overseas and then you can make it to the NBA.’ That’s not what you set out to do,” he said. “But there’s different ways to get to the same goal. Things happen for a reason, and I feel like I’m a lot better player now.
“I’ve got a foot and a half in the door (with the Hornets), and come training camp time and preseason games, I’m going to get that last heel in the door and basically make a splash and make a mark at the highest level. I’m just excited for the opportunity. I’m happy, and my family is happy. I know it’s going to fun.”
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