Free Falling McRoberts Lands In Portland

After the season ended and he declared for the draft, Duke big man Josh McRoberts was absolutely certain he'd walk across the stage in New York City to shake David Stern's hand that he forfeited the rest of his college eligibility to sign with an agent. By the time McRoberts heard his name called on Thursday, Stern's assistant was the one doing the announcements.

Before his sophomore season began, McRoberts appeared to be a likely top 15 pick in the draft, but a season in the spotlight exposed some very serious deficiencies in the Carmel native's game. Apparently those in charge of scouting and investing a team's future in the new wave of talent noticed.

After deferring to J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams as a freshman, the 6-foot-10 McRoberts spent his sophomore season attempting to make the Blue Devils his team. Being the number one rated player in the class of 2005, the multi-talented big forward was expected to step in and become Duke's top overall option on offense, as well as the leader in the locker room. It never happened and Duke suffered it's worst statistical season in nearly a decade - losing 11 games and earning a six seed in the NCAA Tournament before bowing out to Virginia Commomwealth in the first round.

With a lackluster season under his belt, McRoberts needed to have a successful pre-draft camp circuit to answer his critics. Teams wanted to see if he had the ability to score on his own, and just how spotty his "motor" truly was. Again, teams came away underwhelmed - particularly concerned with his inability to get into playing shape prior to the draft workouts.

Those looking to pinpoint when McRoberts' free fall began can look to the pre-draft camp in Orlando where prospects were measured in any number of drills. While the media focused on Kevin Durant's inability to lift 185lbs, the real story for Duke fans was their former big forward's shocking results. He measured the second worst of all attendees with 13.7 percent body fat, and despite his reputation for dunking the ball at Duke, his vertical was among the bottom 20% of those in attendance.

Though he did manage to test somewhat better while in Chicago and then Washington, it was likely too little too late as the avalanche of negative momentum had taken hold.

Fast forward to Thursday night and the end of the first round where not even Blue Devil life line Billy King could keep his alma mater's latest NBA prospect in the first 30 picks. It wasn't until the seventh pick of the second round that the Portland Trailblazers finally made him an official part of the NBA by reuniting him with the player who helped him build such a great high school reputation - Greg Oden.

Ultimately, being picked by the Blazers may end up being a blessing in disguise. Along with the freshly drafted Oden, McRoberts will join a young nucleus full of capable NBA scorers - freeing him up to play the more comfortable role of sidekick. And, by falling into the second round, McRoberts will be fully motivated to earn his way towards a quicker pay day of a second contract.

Of course the downside of this deal is the lack of a guaranteed timeframe in which to prove himself worthy of a big payday. The talent is there. So is the potential. The physical improvements will come with health and an NBA regiment. That just leaves the question of drive - something that never materialized in two years at Duke, but will ultimately determine McRoberts' staying power in the NBA.

McRoberts was the 39th player chosen in the draft from Mike Krzyzewski's program, and the 21st since 1985. He was the seventh playe selected from the ACC joining North Carolina's Brandan Wright (8th), Georgia Tech's Thaddeus Young (12th), Florida State's Al Thornton (14th), Boston College's Sean Williams (17th), Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton (19th), and Boston College's Jared Dudley (22nd).

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