Lawrence Roberts will never forget the day last summer when one
of his friends on the Baylor team called to say that their
teammate Patrick Dennehy hadn't been heard from for a week. "I
didn't think anything of it at first," Roberts recalls, "but
after I hung up the phone, I started wondering, Could I go that
long without contacting anybody?"
Roberts's worst fears were confirmed on July 27 when the
sophomore forward's body was found in Waco, Texas, six days after
Baylor junior forward Carlton Dotson was arrested and charged
with Dennehy's murder. That set off a chain of events that saw
Baylor get placed on NCAA probation, cost coach Dave Bliss his
job and led four players to transfer. (They were granted
immediate eligibility by the NCAA instead of having to sit out a
year.) Roberts was one of them, and he has made the most of his
new beginning at Mississippi State.
The 6'9", 235-pound junior forward scored 26 points and grabbed
15 rebounds in a season-opening win over Tennessee-Martin on Nov.
22 and has led Mississippi State to a 6-0 start, averaging 15.2
points and 11.3 rebounds a game. "It's been kind of weird
adjusting to a different situation," he says, "but it's getting
easier as the games go on."
Roberts also considered Arizona and Indiana, but he saw an
opportunity to play a lot of minutes with the Bulldogs, whose
best player, 6'9" Mario Austin, left school early to enter the
NBA draft. State's top recruit, 6'8" Travis Outlaw decided to
enter the draft and skip college entirely. It has turned out to
be a windfall for Mississippi State, since Roberts has shown the
same skills that made him the Big 12's leading rebounder in
conference play last season, with 11.3 boards a game. "He's not
one of those guys who creates a lot of space for himself; he just
explodes to the ball," says Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury. "We'll
be tweaking things for him as we go, but so far he's fit in
December 15, 2003
Given what all the Baylor players had gone through in the
off-season, Stansbury decided to handle Roberts's transition with
the utmost delicacy. The school declined all requests to
interview Roberts during the preseason, and Stansbury arranged
for him to meet with a psychologist. "Every now and then I'll see
something on the news about it, but I still can't believe
everything that happened," says Roberts, who adds that
playing--and playing well--has been his best therapy.
His coach agrees. "The start of the season has helped him heal,"
says Stansbury. "He has a new chapter in his life now."