Lawrence Roberts transferred to Starkville this season after spending the last two years at Baylor. He and the rest of the Bears came under national scrutiny this summer after teammate Patrick Dennehy was found slain and another teammate, Carlton Dotson, was charged with the killing.
"You see this stuff on TV," Roberts said. "You never
imagine you could
be in this situation."
Roberts and Dennehy had little more than "a basketball
Roberts said, but he still can remember the phone call he received
saying Dennehy hadn't shown up to lift weights.
"I didn't really think much of it until I got off the phone and
started thinking, 'Would I go that long without calling somebody,'"
Dennehy disappeared in June, and his body was discovered on July 25.
Baylor coach Dave Bliss, who eventually resigned, was later taped asking
players to lie and indicate to authorities that Dennehy was involved
Roberts hasn't talked with Bliss since leaving Baylor but would like
to in order to offer his former coach encouragement and ask questions
which remain on his mind, he said. Due to the outrageous nature of the
situation at Baylor, any Bears' player who wished was allowed to
transfer without penalty.
Georgia, which plays at Mississippi State today at 1 p.m. in a game
that will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot, talked with Baylor guard John Lucas III about coming to Athens. Lucas eventually transferred to
Georgia coach Dennis Felton said he didn't have enough time to get to
know Lucas and, therefore, never felt comfortable enough to bring Lucas
to his team.
"The timing of it was tough," Felton said. "I didn't know
a great deal
about John personally, and those things mean a lot to me. It was kind of
a rush job, and it didn't quite reach the confidence level I would have
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said he only had about a day
and a half to get to know Roberts and suggested Felton wouldn't have
been so picky if he needed Lucas as bad as Stansbury needed Roberts.
Stansbury was trying to replace post player Mario Austin, who left
school early for the NBA.
"If he didn't have Rashad Wright coming back, he probably wouldn't
have been quite so concerned getting to know (Lucas)," Stansbury said.
"I didn't have anybody coming back. I needed a big guy who could come in
and play, and I knew (Roberts) could play.
"Did I talk to every aunt and uncle and every girlfriend? No."
Roberts, who led Baylor in scoring and rebounding both years he was
there, considered Mississippi State and Arizona but felt more
comfortable in Starkville, he said.
"It's like going to try on shoes. The fit was extremely great,"
said. "I saw myself filling (Austin's) shoes and exceeding those
Stansbury said Roberts has proven to be everything he hoped for off
the court, and his contribution on the court has been obvious. The
6-foot-9 junior leads the Bulldogs in scoring (16.5 ppg), rebounding
(10.8 rpg) and shooting percentage (56.8 percent).
"Roberts maybe flew under the radar screen a little bit," said
coach Billy Donovan. "I don't think that people really understood how
good Lawrence Roberts is. He's been better than advertised."
Roberts has achieved his goal of exceeding Austin's impact, Donovan
"Austin was a low-block player so you always knew where he was at.
Roberts can beat you in a lot of different ways," said Donovan, whose
Gators gave up 21 points and 14 rebounds to Roberts. "He adds another
dimension to their team."
With Roberts leading the way, Mississippi State is in first place in
the SEC West (4-1) and has the best overall winning percentage of any
conference school (15-1). And, with each victory, Mississippi State is
leading Roberts out of his painful past.
"It's hard to leave something like that behind," he said.
"When I'm on
the court playing basketball, that's the best thing."
Major: Sports communication
High school: Lamar (Houston, Texas)
High school honors: Averaged 28 points, 18 rebounds as senior ...
scored 58 points in a game ... Considered a top 20 power forward
prospect in nation
College honors: Averaged 16 points and 9.3 rebounds in two years at
Baylor ... Set Big 12 freshman scoring record ... Two-time, second-team
FYI: Nephew of ABC and ESPN sports commentator Robin Roberts
Georgia vs. No. 19 Mississippi State
1 p.m./Humphrey Coliseum (Starkville, Miss.)
Records: Georgia 9-6 overall, 1-3 SEC; Mississippi State 15-1, 3-1 SEC
Coaches: Georgia -- Dennis Felton (9-6, first season); Mississippi
State -- Rick Stansbury (115-61, sixth season)
Mississippi State starters: G Timmy Bowers, 6-2, Sr. (15.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Winsome Frazier, 6-4, Jr. (12.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Branden
Vincent, 6-8, Sr., (6.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9, Jr.
(16.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg) F Shane Power, 6-5, Jr. (7.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg).
Georgia starters: G Rashad Wright, 6-3, Sr. (14.5 ppg, 3.1 apg); G Levi Stukes, 6-1, Fr. (9.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg); F Damien Wilkins, 6-7, Sr. (12.5
ppg, 5.9 rpg); F Chris Daniels, 6-7, Sr. (10.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg); F Jonas Hayes, 6-7, Sr. (12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Outlook: Mississippi State looks like the best team in the league. Its
only loss of the season was a 67-66 loss against Kentucky, which hit a
buzzer beater to get the win. Mississippi State has already won three
road games in the SEC, including a 79-68 thumping of Florida on
Wednesday. Still, Georgia coach Dennis Felton is eager for the game and
excited about his team's effort in a 45-42 loss to Alabama on Wednesday.
"I'm looking forward to it, especially after we were able to put two
conference games together in terms of consistency and effort," Felton
said. "I was thrilled with the way we fought from beginning to end."
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is wary of Georgia's experience.
"I think Georgia has already proven they're capable of being as good as
anyone in this league or in the country on a given night," he said.
"When those four (seniors) can stay out of foul trouble and play
emotionally at another level ... it's been proven they are as good as
anybody in this league."
Next up: Georgia at LSU, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
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