Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

February 4, 2013

Roberts finds new role, challenge at Liberty

There are many secrets to success.

Actually, they’re not secrets at all. We know them, no matter if we’re an athlete, chef, businessman or bus driver.

Casey Roberts knows them. He’s proven it for quite some time, especially during his days at Allegany High and Allegany College of Maryland.

At Allegany High, he was two-time Area and Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference Player of the Year, two-time All-City, led the area in scoring (25.6) and three-point goals (62) as a senior, and finished No. 5 on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,430 points.

The Campers had a 64-10 record in his three seasons.

At Allegany College, he was first-team All-Maryland JUCO and All-Region XX for two consecutive seasons. He led the team in scoring (17.2) as a sophomore and made 83 three-point shots in his two years.

Now at Liberty University, Roberts is playing on his third team in four years, but the adjustment to a new program and Division I basketball hasn’t been as difficult as some might expect. One reason it hasn’t is because of what he brought to Lynchburg with him.

“I was definitely well-prepared and know I was blessed to have had the coaches I’ve had in the past,’’ he said. “Coach (Tedd) Eirich at Allegany, he’s kind of an old-school guy in terms of never being late, making no excuses, working in the weight room and practicing as much as we’re allowed to.

“Those values and how to play the game are important, and I’ve never really known anything else.

“It’s the same at Allegany College. I was blessed to have Mike Baker as my coach. He was more than a basketball coach. He stressed how important off-court priorities are, too. The way you conduct yourself as a human being is more important than as a basketball player. The X’s and O’s come after that.”

But coaches can do only so much. Coaches coach. Players play. And in Roberts’ third game at Liberty, he found himself at the Verizon Center, playing against Georgetown.

He thought about the many places he had played, the thousands of times at home with the hoop in the driveway. And now, against Georgetown?

“It was awesome to play there, the same place where the pros play, and against Georgetown. But we were so busy with preparation I didn’t have much time to think about it,’’ he said. “We were there the night before for practice and then for the shootaround the next day before the game.

“It was a lot of fun. I love that kind of challenge and opportunity.”

Liberty lost to Georgetown 68-59. Roberts had a team-high 13 points and made three of four three-point shots.

The 6-foot-3 junior guard had a team-high 15 points in a 67-62 loss to Morgan State a few games later. For the year, he is fifth on the team in scoring, averaging 6.9 points per game, and second in three-point shots made (33) and three-point shooting (42 percent).

“Casey’s been probably our biggest surprise,’’ said Liberty head coach Dale Layer. “We knew he was a good player, but from Day 1 he adjusted well, has shown a great work ethic, is a team player, can knock down the shot and score the basketball. He’s contributed in all areas, and contributes every time he steps on the floor.”

The Flames got off to a disappointing start, losing their first eight games. They have gone 7-8 since, and beat Big South North Division leading Campbell 89-72 last week before losing at Winthrop 66-56 Saturday night.

“Casey started early in the year and now he’s our sixth man, or first perimeter man off the bench,’’ Layer said. “He’s improving his defensive ability and was very well prepared when he got here. He understands the game and works hard, is very coachable and conscientious. When you have that combination it translates into success.”

There’s at least one more secret to success, and Roberts nailed it early during a telephone interview last week.

“I’m never really satisfied.”

That’s the drive and mindset of the successful athlete — striving for perfection, despite knowing it likely will never be reached.

“There’s been some peaks and valleys,’’ Roberts said of his junior season. “Coming off the bench is hard ... it’s the first time I’ve ever done it. I started the year coming off the bench, then started for a while, and now I’m coming off the bench again.

“But it really doesn’t matter much. There’s not much difference at all once you get in the game. When you do, your job is to bring some energy and a spark to the team.”

Roberts has started 11 of Liberty’s 23 games and is fifth in minutes played, averaging 19 per game.

“I love the school and academics and also the mission of the school,” Roberts said of Liberty, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1971. “I’m learning a lot and surrounded by positive influences on and off the court.

“And the basketball is incredible. The guys know all the ins and outs of the game, with a full-time staff that opens your eyes to stuff you didn’t know before. It shows you how much you have to learn and grow as a player.

“The competition is really good and competing with so many talented players every day is awesome. I just try to work hard and give God the glory in all I do.”

Tuesday’s Radford-Liberty game is scheduled to be televised on MASN2 (Atlantic Broadband channel 48) at 7 p.m., as are games against Campbell (Feb. 13) and Longwood (Feb. 19).

Upon further review

Allegany’s 65-33 win over Fort Hill last week was one of the more lopsided ones in the City series. Fort Hill held the largest victory margin, 88-47 in 1997, for a while. Allegany topped it by one point with a 100-58 win in 2009.

Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at mmathews@times-news.com

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