Roberson continues growth as starting forward heading into Virginia Tech matchup


first_img Published on February 3, 2015 at 12:15 am Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse Before beating Wake Forest on Jan. 13, Syracuse’s forwards lined up behind the 3-point line and, like they do before most games, staged a pseudo dunk contest.B.J. Johnson swooped in from the top of the key and threw down a left-handed windmill. Rakeem Christmas finished an around-the-back-360 slam that drew “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from the baseline crowd. Walk-on Doyin Akintobi-Adeyeye tossed the ball off the backboard and dunked it two-handed, drawing laughs from the guards who stretched near midcourt.Then Tyler Roberson dribbled twice and lightly laid in a layup off the backboard. No dunk. All fundamentals.“That’s just me,” Roberson said, laughing, after the WFU game. “I’m laid back, quieter. I guess I like to save it for the game.”At the beginning of SU’s season, Roberson was the same in games as he is before them — passive and largely ineffective with the ball. Now, as Syracuse (14-7, 5-3 Atlantic Coast) hosts Virginia Tech (9-12, 1-7) for a must-win 9 p.m. contest on Tuesday night, the Orange can’t afford a down game from its de facto starting power forward.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textRoberson has scored in double-figures in SU’s last three games, and his in-season transformation into a high-post threat is coming at a critical time.“He’s got a great opportunity and he’s really done a great job on the boards,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said on the ACC coaches’ teleconference Monday. “… If he gets an open look and knocks it down or makes a good play, and he’s done that the last two games. That’s important for us.”The 6-foot-8 forward from Roselle Catholic (New Jersey) High School is used to shifting roles.Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff said that Roberson was “strictly a back-to-the-basket player” as a sophomore in high school, but smaller teams started to pack it in against the Lions. Boff taught Roberson to expand his game to the high post and the forward ascended up the national recruiting rankings as a junior.This season, Roberson began the year starting on the wing for the Orange before an injury sidelined him for three games. He resurfaced as a backup forward after the injury and, after Chris McCullough went down for the season at the start of ACC play, is back in the staring lineup as SU’s power forward.Now Roberson’s role is simple: provide enough offense to alleviate the pressure on Christmas, and do so without the consistent hesitation that mired the first half of his season.“I think I can do this,” Roberson said of the Orange’s increased dependency on him. “I just need to be confident in my jump shot and not think twice when I’m in the right spot.”Roberson played more than 30 minutes just once in 10 nonconference games. Conversely, he’s played less than 30 minutes in just one of the Orange’s eight ACC games and teams have dared him to score in the increased time. In 18 games, he’s playing 27.3 minutes per contest and averaging 7.4 points with 7.1 rebounds.On Jan. 24, Miami used a 4-5 trap to smother Christmas, with Tonye Jekiri leaving Roberson wide open to double-team Christmas in the post. Christmas scored five points in the first half but Roberson tallied eight, which forced Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga to switch to a 1-5 trap that used a guard to double-team Christmas instead of a big man.Syracuse lost the game, but Roberson’s first-half productivity caught Miami’s attention and led to 18 points for Christmas in the second.Two days later against North Carolina, Roberson saw little pressure throughout the game and scored eight second-half points to keep the Orange within striking distance in an eventual 10-point loss.“We need Tyler to be good when he gets the ball,” Christmas said after the Miami game. “It opens things up for me and everyone else.”And while Roberson turned in one of his best performances against the Tar Heels — scoring his second-highest total of the season with 13 points and dishing out a season-high five assists with no turnovers — he also grabbed a meek three rebounds and fouled out.He was unhappy with the incomplete performance and said that his next game, which comes against the Hokies, could be the one where he puts it all together.“It’s hard to get Tyler to say too much, if anything at all,” SU forward Michael Gbinije said, adding that Roberson is by far the quietest player on the team. “… You just wait for it to happen with him.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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