Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Delighted to be here: KU basketball walk-on Niko Roberts optimistic heading into sophomore season

Kansas University guard Niko Roberts smiles as he listens to campers chanting for him to dunk at the Bill Self basketball camp on Tuesday, June 15, 2011 at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas University guard Niko Roberts smiles as he listens to campers chanting for him to dunk at the Bill Self basketball camp on Tuesday, June 15, 2011 at the Horejsi Center.

June 15, 2011


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Norm Roberts, who was hired as an assistant basketball coach at the University of Florida last April, hasn’t tried to convince his oldest son, Niko, to join him in Gainesville, Fla.

“No, he hasn’t been begging me to come. He knows I love it here and want to be here. I’ll visit him when I can, but Kansas is the place for me right now,” said Niko, Kansas University’s 5-foot-11, 175-pound sophomore walk-on guard from Huntington, N.Y.

Norm, of course, is thrilled his son is playing ball at KU, where he worked as an assistant coach on Bill Self’s 2003-04 staff. Norm also worked for Self at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois from 1996-2003 and ran his own program at St. John’s, where he went 81-101 from 2005-10.

“He’s been there (Florida) for a month. He loves it. He loves the coaching staff. He loves the team. I think he loves the situation he’s in right now,” Niko said of Norm, who now works for Billy Donovan at the SEC school.

“Definitely,” Niko added, when asked if dad would be a head coach again. “Because he is a great coach, a great guy, a great person. He does things the right way. He just has to wait for the right spot for him.”

Niko — he averaged 16.0 points and 5.0 assists a game his senior season at Saint Anthony’s High in Long Island, N.Y. — considered walking on at VCU, East Carolina and some other schools before becoming a non-scholarship player at KU.

Now a seasoned sophomore, he’s taken KU freshmen Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe under his wing.

“I’m rooming with Ben so I see him every single day. Naadir is always in the room, too,” Roberts said Tuesday before working out for Bill Self’s basketball campers. “I’m trying to give them little pointers to figure out how to work their situation here, how to deal with classes.

“I really like Ben. Ben is funny. So is Naadir,” Roberts added of 6-foot-5 St. Louis native McLemore and 6-foot Worcester, Mass., native Tharpe.

“I’m not used to meeting people from Massachusetts. His accent ... anything he says makes me laugh,” Roberts added of Tharpe. “Ben is just funny because of the way he does things. He doesn’t even mean to be funny half the time. They are both hilarious.”

Niko likes what he’s seen of half of KU’s incoming freshman class on the basketball court. Freshmen Braeden Anderson and Jamari Traylor should be on campus next week.

“They’ve been playing well in pick-up,” Roberts said. “Ben is so athletic. He’s going to be great. Naadir is going to be a really good point guard. He’s always looking to set somebody up. I think they will impact our team real well.”

Roberts, who played 22 minutes in 12 games last season, has been fine-tuning his own game.

“Coach (Kurtis) Townsend has been working with me on my handle a lot. My dribbling is getting better. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to the rack easier and create plays,” Roberts said.

“It (summer) is perfect. Right now it’s a little bit crazy because we are working camps, playing pick-up. We’re just busy throughout the whole day. Summer is a good transition. We can still relax a little bit and enjoy being in college, not just out there every day practicing.”

The Jayhawks play pick-up almost every day.

“We know what we are capable of. We are ready to play,” Niko said of 2011-12. “I think we are just as good as we were last year. We just may look a little bit different.”

NBA workouts: Former KU forward Marcus Morris worked out for the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. He’ll run through drills for the Toronto Raptors today. Marcus’ brother, Markieff, will work out for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers today.


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