Sallie Talks about Commitment

Dawgman.com sat down and spoke with new Washington hoops commit Roburt Sallie, a 6-5 shooting guard from Sacramento (Calif.) Valley, as well as his AAU coach, Brian Hamilton. Sallie committed to the Huskies in a very short time after the Washington coaches started to recruit him in earnest, but it wasn't as if Roburt had been asleep this whole time.

"I've been trying to get Cameron and Lorenzo to look at him since this past summer," Hamilton told Dawgman.com of his prized scorer for his team, Play Hard Play Smart. "He just lit up the circuit this spring. He went down to Pangos and lit it up there. They took my word for it, but once they saw him in person they said they had to have him."

Despite having a professional basketball team in their own backyard, it seems like Sacramento prep hoops toil in relative obscurity. DeMarcus Nelson and Robert Rothbart are the biggest high school players to come out of the area this past season, accepting scholarships to play for Duke and Indiana, respectively. But Hamilton has been doing his level best to attract attention to his players, including former Play Hard Play Smart alumnus and Washington signee Zach Johnson.

"He has tremendous upside," Hamilton said of the 6-9 Johnson. "He's a monster on the boards. He just needs to work on his moves around the basket, besides dunking the ball and rebounding."

But back to Sallie. Perhaps it was destiny, but a big part of Roburt's decision to attend Washington came about because of his close relationship with his former PHPS teammate.

"I'm young," Roburt told Dawgman.com. "Going to new places can be terrifying for a kid. I'm an adult now, but to tell you the truth I wasn't ready to go somewhere far where I would be by myself. But I've been playing with Zach for four years and everything I've heard from him has been positive and great. It just feels right, going to Washington. It feels good. I'm excited, to tell you the truth.

"I talked to him (Zach) today. He's already in Seattle, doing summer school. He's going to redshirt his first year because of his knee injuries. But with Zach, me, Harvey (Perry) and I heard they have another guy (Artem Wallace), we should have a pretty good class for 2005."

Sallie graduated from Valley High School this past spring, a Delta League MVP in 2003 and an All-Metro selection the last two seasons, averaging 21.5 points per game. He helped the Vikings win consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section titles and appear in two NorCal finals.

Roburt still looks back on his Valley days with some bittersweet memories.

"For the last two years we were one game short from a state championship," he said. "And I've been playing with the same guys since middle school and we won a state championship in middle school. We've always been a winning team, but when I think of how close we were the past two years it just tears me apart."

Sallie isn't currently eligible to attend college this fall, as would be the case with most 2003 seniors. He's in search of a passing SAT score. The Sacramento Bee initially reported in the spring that Roburt would attend Maine Central Institute, but Sallie said that he'll be attending Laurinburg Prep in North Carolina. Roburt has opted to attend prep school rather than a community college so he can improve his GPA and test scores and not lose college eligibility.

"I was supposed to go to MCI, but they wanted me to pay for some of my schooling," Roburt said. "I found Laurinburg and it's taken care of there. Washington helped find the school with me. In fact I just signed a letter of intent with them." Sallie will attend Laurinburg for a full year and then move to Seattle in the summer. This move proved productive for a current Husky - Joel Smith. Smith moved from Lompoc, California to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to attend Brewster Academy with the same plan in mind. Right now Joel is in Seattle, preparing himself for his first year of Division I basketball.

Another 2004 commitment, Henderson (Nev.) Foothill SG Harvey Perry, will also go the prep school route, attending Brewster starting this fall.

So with college on hold, Roburt did what he could - taking his frustrations out on the AAU circuit. Not only is he playing for Play Hard Play Smart, but he's also splitting time with Compton Magic and will play with Spirit of the North, an LA-based team, at the Best of the Summer tournament in Los Angeles next week.

"My coach just wanted me to get my name out there," said Roburt. "I can't tell you where I would be without him."

"When he isn't playing with us, he plays with whoever he can, and the coach for Compton Magic and Spirit of the North are both my guys," Hamilton explains.

But gone are the days when Sallie's only job was to impress coaches enough to earn scholarship offers. He's taken care of that. "I think they (Washington) stole 'em," Hamilton said of Sallie and Zach Johnson. "They were both under the radar, and being from Sacramento there isn't much publicity. I think they have huge upside. They are both great kids."

But there's more to Roburt's commitment. In only a week or so, the Washington coaches - Cameron Dollar in particular - earned Sallie's trust. "My coach is real, real good friends with him," Roburt said. "I've been talking with them for a while and I just decided that Washington would be the best fit for me. They have an up-tempo style of play, and it's similar to mine. They have a good class coming in in 2005, so that was a big part of my decision.

"I would call him (Dollar) up every couple of days and we'd talk for a while. I feel like I know him and I just started talking to Washington about three weeks ago. I've never even met him before, but I struck up a relationship with him. I can trust them. They are willing to stick through thick and thin with me. One of the big reasons I'm going to Washington is that they are taking a risk with me by giving me a chance to go to prep school and getting my SAT, which I will get. That's for sure."

Location was just as important. "I also wanted to play in the Pac-10, so I picked out the ones I thought I would fit in the best," continued Sallie. "I was talking to Arizona, but Washington is a great fit for me. I discussed it with my parents, I discussed it with my coach and everybody I talked to thinks it's going to be an awesome fit for me. They think I can come in and play in a year or two. They are losing three seniors and two good players to the draft, so the coaches want me to come right in and fill a position.

"Washington has a running style. Their main scorers are their guards. They get out and run the floor. I'm used to the flex offense, because that's what we played in high school. I'm a scorer, I just find ways to score. I may slash, shoot some threes, I may cut, get some steals, get to the free-throw line - I just find ways to score. I've had a knack for scoring since the 7th grade. I not selfish with the ball. I don't go out there and shoot 30 times a game. I just find ways to score and get my team involved. I'm kind of like the leader of the team. My job is to control the floor. I feel like a point guard out there, but I'm not."

"I think he'll fit in perfectly," Hamilton adds. "He's definitely a team player. He doesn't need to dominate the ball to score. I would have to say he's a Rip Hamilton, Reggie Miller-type. He's got a slender body build, but he slices to the basket, shoots the ball. He's a shooter and a scorer. I keep telling him that he needs to keep moving like Richard Hamilton and he'll be alright."

The Hamilton comparisons appear to be apt. "Our uniforms look just like the Detroit Pistons, so everyone compares me to Richard Hamilton," Roburt said. "He's not the buffest guy on the court. He runs the floor, he works hard and he finds ways to score. I think I do fit his style of play. I'm not the biggest guy on the court, but I can shoot. Richard Hamilton can shoot. He can slash and get to the free-throw line. He gets it done."

From seeing what he's done so far in Las Vegas at the Reebok Big Time, Sallie also compares favorably to the gym-rat mentality of Will Conroy. "I played in six games in the past two days, so I'm a little drained," Sallie said. The Compton Magic are playing in the Adidas Super 64 tournament, and he plays with them when he has a break with Play Hard Play Smart. Roburt is averaging 14-15 points a game with the Magic, but is averaging about 28 points per game with PHPS. "I've scored 36 points three times," he said.

In PHPS's last game Saturday night, they lost to Harvey Perry's Arizona Magic Blue squad 79-70. "He was off," Hamilton said of Roburt's performance. "He had his moments, but a lot of shots were in and out." Sallie was held under 20 points for the first time in Big Time play.

Washington, Oregon State and Fresno State were the schools that had offered Roburt at the time of his commitment, but his play at the Big Time has opened eyes. "There were a lot of schools that were calling me, but my coach was telling most of the schools that I was going to Washington already, even though I hadn't committed at the time," he said. "But I was really leaning that way. The local schools were all over me, but now that I'm playing in the tournaments there are schools from all over looking at me. But then they would call my coach and he tells 'em that I'm going to Washington. And to be honest, a lot of schools backed off of me because I was going to prep school and I had to pass my SAT."

So call it destiny, call it good fortune, call it whatever you want to. Roburt Sallie is taking his act on the road this fall to prove that Washington's faith in him is well-founded. He will visit Montlake officially in August and then will move to North Carolina.

"I'm going to put on at least 20 pounds," Roburt said when asked how he will spend his time on the right coast. "I'm going to be in the weight room every day. And I also want to work on my ballhandling."

It came quickly, but in a matter of days and weeks Roburt Sallie's future has been decided. A year from now we will know if that future is still on track, if prep school has been merely a small obstacle on Sallie's road to Division I riches that has been successfully navigated.

If it was just a slash to the bucket through a double-team, chalk it up.

And one.

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