Former Flyer helps players with NIL deals because he was in their shoes years ago

Brian Roberts encourages Dayton community to come up with more ways to help local athletes in new era of athletes earning compensation for their fame

Work for the 2021-22 season started in June for the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team. All 13 players have been on campus together for weeks, taking advantage of the summer practice period that allows them to train for eight weeks.

Former Dayton guard Brian Roberts, who has remained closed to the program since his final college game in 2008, visited practice Friday and them provided the first inside glimpse of coach Anthony Grant’s fifth Dayton team, one that is more of a mystery than any other because of the presence of seven newcomers.

“It was a pretty good practice,” Roberts said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News on Friday afternoon. “They’ve got got some size and some athleticism that I think will carry them through. With youth, those guys can run and be active and play a fast-paced game. We’ll see. They looked pretty good. I know with the coaching staff and AG, they’ll do a good job getting them ready.”

That visit wasn’t the sole reason Roberts returned to his home state — he’s a Toledo native — from his home in Charlotte. Ahead of Thursday, the date people across the country expected college athletes to earn the right to profit off the use of their names, images and likenesses, Roberts and a local business he leads, Flyer Faithful LLC, prepared to help Dayton men’s basketball players benefit.

Roberts said Matt Farrell, a former Dayton men’s basketball director of operations who’s brother Andy is on Grant’s staff, kept him abreast of the NIL situation. They started throwing around ideas of how they might help the athletes when July 1 arrived. Farrell is a NIL Consultant and a student-athlete advocate at 14fifty Partners.

Roberts wanted to be the first to sign players from his former program to endorsement deals, and he and Flyer Faithful LLC did so on Thursday. On Friday, players used their social media accounts to promote a three-bedroom apartment for rent on Brown Street. The property is attached to The Fieldhouse, the bar on Brown Street owned by Flyer Faithful LLC. That’s where Roberts talked about his motivations for stepping into the NIL world.

“I’m definitely happy for them,” Roberts said. “It’s an exciting time for those guys.”

Roberts finished his career as Dayton’s fourth-leading scorer (1,962 points). There’s no telling how much money he could have made endorsing products, signing autographs, running basketball camps, etc., during his college career, especially after he scored 31 points in an upset of No. 6 Pittsburgh at UD Arena in December of his senior year.

“Of course, I wish things would have been like this in ‘08, but they weren’t,” Roberts said. “It’s just what it was, and we didn’t think about that at the time. But now these guys can generate a little bit of income without having to think, ‘Oh, am I doing something illegal?’ Just for them to have that ability, I’m happy to help out because I was in those shoes not too long ago. If I can be of any resource or help for these guys, that’s what I want to do because I’m part of the Flyer family, and I want to continue to see this university and these players do well.”

On Friday, Rare Active, a local female-owned company, hired Dayton women’s basketball players to endorse their apparel. By being the first to hire the athletes, these business are showing other local businesses what is possible.

“It’s nothing too major at this point,” Roberts said. “Obviously, it’s so early in this whole thing. We had this apartment available, and we just thought we’d get our feet wet with this whole situation and allow guys to put some posts up and kind of promote the apartment.”

More deals are sure to come. One of the subplots of the NIL era will be about how much competition there will be among supporters of programs to make sure their athletes are compensated as much as athletes from other programs. Roberts knows it might be hard to compete with programs from bigger markets.

“Here we rely on this small tight-knit community that shows so much support for the players,” Roberts said. “It’s important for them to jump on board.”

Roberts talked to the Dayton players at practice and advised them on how to take advantage of their earning power. The financial knowledge and business experience they gain now will help them in the years ahead.

“It’s important because you can’t play forever,” Roberts said. “This is a small window. If you’re fortunate enough to play at the professional level, it’s not a lifelong career. It’s something where you make your money and hopefully you’ll be smart with it and use it to make more.”

That’s what Roberts is doing. He last played professional basketball in 2019 in Spain. He had never officially announced his retirement until Friday.

In the interview at The Fieldhouse, Roberts was asked about his playing career and if he planned to play again.

“I’ve got enough going on at home,” Roberts said. “I don’t plan on playing anywhere. I’m fully retired.”

Roberts and his wife Jenna, both Ohio natives, live in Charlotte and are in the process of moving back to their home state. They have four children: Alana, 13; Cole, 8; Ava, 7; and Naomi, almost five months.

Roberts thought about playing in 2020, but the pandemic made his decision easier. Roberts played five seasons in the NBA (2012-17) with the New Orleans, Charlotte and Portland. His overseas career has included stops in Israel, Germany, Greece and Spain.

Among the 23 former Flyers who have played in the NBA, Roberts ranks eighth in career points with 2,059. He’s behind Jim Paxson (11,199), Roger Brown (10,498), Johnny Davis (9,710), Bucky Bockhorn (5,430), Don May (3,339), Hank Finkel (2,790) and Monk Meineke (2,338).

“I don’t really have too many regrets,” Roberts said. “I felt like I gave it everything I could, both physically and mentally, and I’m at peace with how it all played out. I’ve traveled to Spain, Israel, Germany, Greece. I’ve been all over, so my kids were able to experience some of that stuff too, which is important for them.”

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