The Roe way

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St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) boys' basketball coach Eric Flannery had yet to get over the sting of his team's upset loss to Moeller in last year's Division I state semifinals when his cell phone buzzed with an incoming text message that same night.

"I'm going to win you a state championship next year." Flannery knew immediately it was from his star forward, Delvon Roe, then a junior. In the aftermath of the worst loss of his young career, Roe was showing the maturity and quiet strength that has defined him since he arrived at St. Edward as a freshman.

Roe, who's rated the nation's No. 9 recruit in the Class of 2008 by RISE, put the blame on himself. As the team's star, he felt it was his responsibility to have everyone prepared down the stretch of the 67-60 defeat to Moeller, a loss that ended St. Edward's bid for a perfect season at 25-1.

"We came into that game not expecting to lose, so when our backs were against the wall, we didn't know what to do," says the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Roe.

Even though he scored 14 points while playing through a bad hip injury, Roe felt he could have done more.

"He was having a hard time walking in the locker room at halftime, but he didn't use that as an excuse," Flannery says. "No matter how he plays, if we lose, he takes the blame."

It didn't matter that Roe averaged 21 points, 10 boards and three blocks per game on the season. It was irrelevant that he'd already committed to Michigan State and could have looked forward to a summer of AAU tournaments in Las Vegas and rubbing elbows with NBA greatness at the LeBron James Skills Academy. That loss to Moeller sat with Roe and he was determined to do something about it.

So he sent the text message and then started putting in the hard work necessary to back up his guarantee. As they do every summer, Roe and his father, Delvon Sr., went to work. Roe would spend two hours per day playing basketball and then another two doing conditioning drills -- lifting weights, swimming and running hills in the sweltering heat.

"He's crazy, and that comes from his father," Flannery says of his star's work ethic. "His father made him understand that it's not just about skill level."

While his dad gets a lot of the credit for Delvon Jr.'s basketball success, the younger Roe's off-court accomplishments are an even greater source of pride for Delvon Sr. and his wife, Tracy.

Roe's parents sent him to St. Edward because they knew the importance of academics and weren't about to let their son squander the opportunities his talents could provide.

"I never took academics seriously," Delvon Sr. says. "So I always told my son I wanted him to go to a school that taught academics first and sports second. I knew St. Ed was the place for my son when the coach said, 'The first thing here is you have to get good grades.'"

Roe wasn't thrilled with the decision at first. All of his friends from his public middle school were going to nearby Euclid. Meanwhile, he had to adjust to going to an all-boys private school where he had to wear a shirt and tie every day.

"It was very tough," Roe says. "Public schools and Catholic schools are two different things. Catholic schools are more strict and you really have to focus on your grades."

Roe became determined to fight through any early problems. He was going to use discipline and hard work to thrive both in the classroom and on the court. If he stumbled, Delvon Sr. and Tracy were going to be there to make sure he stayed on track. His parents made it clear to him that he wasn't going to play basketball forever.

"At some point, the ball is going to stop bouncing," Roe says. "Basketball can only carry you so far, so my parents always make sure I'm studying and turning in my homework on time."

As he got used to St. Edward and began flourishing, Roe's talents on the basketball court became impossible to deny. His game is a beautiful fusion of old-school fundamentals and new-school flair, which is why it's no surprise that his favorite NBA players are Tim Duncan and LeBron.

"Playing with my dad as a kid wasn't much fun," Roe says. "I always wanted to cross over and do the things my friends were doing, but he was all about the fundamentals -- passing and using the backboard."

Combine those fundamentals with his jaw-dropping athleticism and you have an unstoppable offensive player. Roe always had the low-post game to dominate at the high school level, but he's added a mid-range jumper and ball-handling skills that will allow him to thrive playing either forward position at the next level.

And then there's the work ethic. In addition to his commitment to an intense offseason regimen, Roe's game is all about out-hustling his opponent.

"I give 110 percent every time," Roe says. "In every game, I'm going to outwork you. If I defend you, you're never going to get to take a play off."

No matter the score or situation, Roe never gives up, playing both ends of the court like a backup trying to earn extra minutes. In the finals of last year's Beach Ball Classic, a tournament held in Myrtle Beach, S.C., St. Edward trailed St. John's (Washington, D.C.) by 17 points at halftime, but Roe sparked a 28-2 second-half run to guide the Eagles to victory.

"His leadership and ability to stay focused represents what we're all about," Flannery says. "He put it all on his shoulders and really elevated us to a win."

It's only fitting that Roe has lifted the St. Edward basketball team to a higher plane because the school has done the same for him.

"It's been the best experience of my life," he says. "I went in a child and will leave a young man."

And hopefully, a state champion.