Roundfield’s pro career hard-earned

By Conrad Brunner |

Indianapolis (Sept. 27, 2011) -- As a relatively unheralded rookie out of Central Michigan, Dan Roundfield knew his professional basketball living would have to be hard-earned. His was not the high-flying style of Dr. J or David Thompson. He would have to specialize in the things more gifted teammates might eschew, specifically defense.

To that end, not long after he was drafted No. 6 overall in the 1975 ABA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, Roundfield was summoned by Roger Brown for a little one-on-one shakedown session.

"He took me over to Washington High School and said, 'OK, let me see what you've got,' '' said Roundfield. "So we're playing one-on-one and Roger was a guy with a thousand moves and he had a cigarette in his mouth. I'm trying to guard a guy with a cigarette in his mouth and getting beat.

"I thought, 'This may not work out so well. I may have to come up with a backup plan because if I can't guard a guy with a cigarette in his mouth -- and he hasn't thought about taking it out -- this may not be such a good thing.' "

Despite that difficult initiation, Roundfield would not only stick around but thrive. His first season (1975-76) was the ABA's last and he went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA, making three All-Star teams and five All-Defensive teams.

A rugged 6-8, 205-pound power forward, Roundfield was a tenacious defender and rebounder who evolved into a capable scorer. He averaged 13.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.15 blocked shots for the Pacers in 1976-77 and followed that up with averages of 13.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.88 blocks the following season -- the first of six straight seasons in which he would average a double-double.

Unfortunately for the Pacers, it also proved to be his last in Indiana.

Heading into the 1978 NBA Draft, the franchise was strapped for cash and wasn't certain it could afford to retain Roundfield, a free agent. With the third pick overall, Indiana selected Kentucky big man Rock Robey, bypassing the opportunity to select a junior forward from Indiana State named Larry Bird, who went sixth to the Celtics.

"I was a free agent and when you're a free agent you kind of wait around, wait around, wait around for somebody to decide whether they're going to offer you a contract or not offer you a contract," Roundfield said. "The Pacers never really offered me a contract so I said, 'OK, fine, I've got a wife and a kid, I've got to do something.' "

Roundfield signed with Atlanta, where he went on to enjoy his finest seasons, but has fond memories of his time with the Pacers.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "I had a great time, met a lot of interesting players -- Roger Brown, Freddie Lewis, Don Buse, Billy Knight, Darnell Hillman, they were great guys. But one of the most interesting people I ever met there was Bob Netolicky. He was somebody I'd heard about before I got there and then found out he lived up to every bit of his billing. He was a different guy. A nice person, just a little different.

"Just mixing and mingling with some of the older guys really helped me and that's the way it went from there."

Now 58, Roundfield settled in Atlanta after his playing days ended in 1987 and has forged a long career with Camp, Dresser & McKee Inc., a worldwide engineering firm. Roundfield is the company's business development manager.

"When I went to college, I earned a marketing degree and when I got done playing, I found out it was going to be a lot harder to get a job than I thought it was going to be," he said. "When I stopped playing, everybody thought, 'You haven't really had a job.' I thought I'd been working for awhile but they'd say, 'No, that's not a job.' So somebody I knew had an engineering firm and I went to work for them and that's what I've been doing ever since."

After that first session with Brown at Washington High, Roundfield couldn't have foreseen what lay ahead. But the lessons learned in that indoctrination, and others throughout his career, stayed with him.

"I was somebody that went out there on a daily basis and said, 'This is what you need to do,' and then worked hard to be able to do it," he said. "I wasn't the superstar type of guy but I was in that range of the next group of guys because I had a couple of skills, and I knew night-in and night-out I was going to have to guard one of the toughest guys in the league.

"I said, 'Fine, this is one way to keep a job. If you can guard these guys, you can be around.' "

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