The waiting game: Freshman Roberson catches up after waiting for NCAA clearance

first_imgWhile the rest of his Syracuse teammates were playing a preseason tour in Canada, Tyler Roberson was taking on NBA stars Kyrie Irving and C.J. Miles in the East Orange Pro Am.Roberson erupted for 51 points and 14 rebounds to lead his team past the pros in the league’s championship game on Aug. 14.‪”I take every game as a challenge no matter who I’m playing against,” Roberson said, “so when I’m going up against guys like this I take it as even more of a challenge to elevate my game.”‬Roberson hadn’t yet been cleared by the NCAA, and his freshman season at SU was in limbo. He spent the months working out at his high school — Roselle (N.J.) Catholic — at the NJ Roadrunners’ AAU facility — sometimes with Irving — and competing in the East Orange Pro Am.“It was a blessing in disguise,” his AAU coach Sandy Pyonin said. “It gave me a couple other months to work with him, to train him.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textRoberson was finally cleared during the first week of September. There was unbridled joy. An incredible sense of relief. His mother even cried, Pyonin said. Roberson, the No. 14 power forward recruit in the Class of 2013 and SU’s second-highest rated commit, would be eligible to play in 2013.“I kind of knew I was going to be cleared. I knew it was just a process,” Roberson said. “If anything, I was more annoyed that I had to wait to come up to school and not be able to play.”His role likely won’t allow him to go for 51 points — he’s behind Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair in Syracuse’s rotation — but he has the skills to create offensively and the length and athleticism to be a force in the Orange’s 2-3 zone. Pyonin went as far as projecting Roberson to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft one day.Getting cleared was always going to be a process. He began at Union High School before transferring to Roselle Catholic after his sophomore year. He would have to do summer work after his senior year to qualify academically.When his coursework was done, the process fell into the NCAA’s hands. He and his high school coach Dave Boff checked Roberson’s page on the NCAA Clearinghouse website several times a day, hoping that one time it would tell them that Roberson was approved.“I think he was not concerned at all until a couple weeks after he finished his summer classes,” Boff said. “Everybody expected that it would be we submit the information and everything’s good a few days later or a week later. It was weeks after weeks after weeks with no change in his status. He was pending the whole time.”His days consisted of practice and workouts — first at his high school, then to his AAU facility and back. Or vice versa.If he couldn’t work with his new team, he would work to make himself better.“People see Tyler, they see this ridiculous 6-9 athlete that can run and jump and they have no idea, no clue, how many hours went in to developing the level of skill that he has,” Boff said.Since his arrival at SU, he’s struggled to get acclimated in some regards.During the first week or so of practice, Pyonin said he got a call from Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins praising Roberson’s play in practice. He could dribble, shoot and defend. But in early October, he pulled his hamstring and missed about a week and a half. Just when he was finding his rhythm with the Orange, he hit another bump.After Syracuse’s 81-46 preseason win over Ryerson University, SU head coach Jim Boeheim said there were a few times that Roberson ran to the wrong side of the zone. In the exhibition win over Division II Holy Family (Pa.) University, he got caught cheating up too far in the zone and beaten for a couple of alley oops.“He just wasn’t in the right position,” Boeheim said. “It’s better to learn that now than later.”Roberson had a handful of backup options in place had he not been cleared. He could’ve stuck around in New Jersey and attended another year of high school. He could have headed overseas and played professionally before trying to jump to the NBA.His most likely choice, though, was to enroll at Syracuse as a student until he got cleared. Roberson’s bags were packed for school even before he finally got word that he was cleared. He was always confident that he would be cleared, but the decision wouldn’t change his mind on SU.As soon as he got word from the NCAA, Roberson and his family packed up the car and drove to Central New York with Pyonin.Missing the Canada trips has probably left him behind in some respects, Boeheim said, but Roberson has poured in hours with assistant coach Adrian Autry to try to crack the Orange’s crowded frontcourt rotation. His coaches urged him toward Syracuse because of how perfectly he fits in the 2-3 zone.The final steps of his journey have had some hiccups — and still could have some more — but somewhere down the road, it seems, Roberson will be a force on the SU wing.“He’s a really good player. We have good players and he’s one of those good players,” Autry said. “We’re just very blessed and happy that he’s here and that we have him.” Comments Published on November 7, 2013 at 2:00 am Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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