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Lawrence Roberts Counts His Blessings

Roberts was the 4th leading scorer in the SEC in 2004-05.
(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
There are no sure things in sports, just ask the horse racing fans who picked heavy-favorite Bellamy Road to win the Kentucky Derby.

But following his junior season at Mississippi State University, Lawrence Roberts looked to be a certain first-round pick in the 2005 NBA Entry Draft. Roberts was named the 2003-04 SEC Player of the Year and became the Bulldogs first consensus first-team All-American since NBA Hall of Famer Bailey Howell (1958-59).

So what happened in his senior season that caused his stock to drop in the eyes of draft experts?

Teams changed their defensive strategies, said the 6-9 Roberts. That made me think a lot more but made me play harder.

His numbers, however, dont support a drop-off. In his senior season, Roberts equaled the 16.9 scoring averaged that garnered him a handful of awards the season before, and he grabbed one more rebound per game in 2004-05.

Tuesdays workout in front of Ed Stefanski and his staff was the first step in Roberts road to the NBA.

But dont ask the Houston native when and where he will go in the draft.

I dont have the slightest idea, said Roberts following his workout. My approach is just to play hard and not worry about whats going on with the draft.

I can only control what I can do and as long as I do that and stay focused Ill be alright, he said.

Roberts knows what happens on draft day is out of his hands just as the circumstances were back in the summer of 2003. Prior to transferring to MSU, Roberts was a member of the Baylor University mens basketball team. In June of that year, teammate Patrick Dennehy went missing for a number of days before his body was found in a gravel pit outside campus in Waco, TX.

A month later another teammate, Carlton Dotson, was charged with Dennehys murder.

I couldnt believe I was a part of the situation, said Roberts. It opens your eyes to different things. It matures you as a person, going through tough situations.

After an investigative panel determined there were widespread NCAA violations within the Baylor basketball program -- which included illegal payments to players, drug use and a cover-up orchestrated by then-head coach Dave Bliss -- the remaining Baylor players were allowed to transfer to other schools without the required one-year waiting period.

With Roberts weeks away from fulfilling his NBA dream, he cant help but think about Dennehy and the dreams he never had the opportunity to see come to fruition.

Im just blessed that Im still able to go out and play basketball, said Roberts. My friend and teammate wasnt able to get this far. Im just taking everything as a blessing.

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