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Roberson continues growth as Syracuse takes on California

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 20, 2014 at 12:20 am Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse By the end of his junior year at Roselle Catholic (New Jersey) High School, Tyler Roberson was ranked as one of the top 30 players in the country. But just a season before, he wasn’t rated as a top-15 player in Union County, New Jersey.“He didn’t really have a high level of skill in terms of ball-handling, shooting, passing,” said Dave Boff, Roberson’s head coach at Roselle Catholic. “ … He hadn’t taken that next step. He was a long, lanky 6-8 post player as a sophomore.“As a junior, he was a 6-9 guy that could play multiple positions that had skills on the perimeter and in the high post.”The latter is the player No. 23 Syracuse (2-0) is looking to utilize as it heads into a matchup with California (2-0) in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The Orange and Golden Bears will tip off at 9 p.m., and Roberson will continue a familiar growing process as a sophomore starter for SU. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAt Roselle Catholic, Roberson crawled out of the paint and expanded his offensive game, which pushed him onto the recruiting map. Now the Orange is expecting him to refine that expanded game so he can contribute to an offense that needs more than just Rakeem Christmas, Chris McCullough and up-and-down guard play.“The coaches have told me they just want me to be more aggressive,” Roberson said. “I’m still getting comfortable but it feels like I’m getting there.”After averaging 2.2 points in 8.1 minutes per game last season, Roberson has started at forward in each of the Orange’s first two contests this year. But he played just 16 minutes in SU’s win over Hampton on Sunday, even as Christmas and McCullough picked up four fouls and the Pirates pounded the ball into the paint. Six players, two off the bench, played more than 20 minutes, and SU head coach Jim Boeheim said that Roberson’s minutes were reduced because forward B.J. Johnson was a better fit against Hampton’s matchup zone. Yet Roberson looked hesitant to shoot, was slow rotating in the back of the zone and wasn’t given the chance to work out the kinks. “The more minutes he gets, the better you’re going to see,” said Sandy Pyonin, Roberson’s coach with the New Jersey Roadrunners AAU team. “He has the skills and athleticism and size to be a great basketball player, if they let him go you’ll see it. “It’s a matter of what they want from him and if they want to let him go.”Boff said Roberson fits well at power forward but also plays the perimeter well. Pyonin was quick to call Roberson a natural small forward that can also play shooting guard, saying that he’s worked tirelessly on his 3-point jumper and has a future as a face-up player. And in the early going, it’s clear Syracuse is asking for some combination of those three spots. When teams have played zone, Roberson sits in the high post on offense, where he swished back-to-back 15-foot jumpers against Kennesaw State and where he started his drive for a game-sealing and-one against Hampton. With teams playing man, Roberson steps out to the perimeter to create space for Christmas and McCullough, and has made just one of six shots from outside the paint so far. “A guy like Tyler can really help us,” SU guard Trevor Cooney said after the Hampton win. “His 15-foot jumper opens up stuff on the perimeter and his ability on the perimeter gives us room inside. I think he’ll get going and it will jumpstart the offense when he does.”When Pyonin first brought Boff to Roselle Catholic, Roberson had the size and natural ability to play at the Division I level. But it wasn’t until he extended his offensive game beyond the paint and grew familiar with Boff’s system that he blossomed into a player who received offers from Syracuse, Kansas and Villanova, among other schools. Now he’s nestled into the Orange’s starting lineup and has another coach, system and team to adapt to.“I think right now he’s still a little tentative to make some plays that I think he can make at that level,” Boff said. “But I think that will come with time.” Commentslast_img read more