John Roberson is a 27 year old 180cm guard from Plano Texas playing his fifth professional season and first with ES Chalon-Sur-Saone (France-ProA). He started his basketball career at Texas Tech in 2007 where he played until 2011 playing a total of 129 NCAA games and as a senior played 30 games averaging 14.1ppg, 2.0rpg, 4.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 38.6%, 3PT: 40.8%, FT: 83.3%. In the 2011-2012 season, he started his professional career and played for Zlatorog Lasko (Slovenia-Telemach League) Slovenian League: 3 games: 3.3ppg, 1.3rpg, 2.3apg; Adriatic League: 6 games: 5.3ppg, 2.2apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 36.4%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 85.7%. IN the 2012-2013 season he played for BBC Monthey (Switzerland-LNA, starting five): 3 games: 17.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 5.3apg, 4.0spg, in Nov.’12 moved to Sodertalje Kings (Sweden-Basketligan): 36 games: 12.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 5.3apg, 4.0spg, FGP: 49.7%, 3PT-2(51.9%), FT: 91.7%; EuroChallenge: 4 games: 4.3ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.5apg, 1.5spg. He remained with the Sodertalje Kings (Sweden-Basketligan) the last two seasons winning two league titles and played 29 games averaging 18.0ppg, 3.4rpg, Assists-3(6.2apg), Steals-5(1.8spg), FGP: 52.6%, 3PT-1(51.2%), FT: 89.7%. He spoke to German Hoops at the Fiba Europe Cup final 4 in Chalon, France.
Thanks John for talking to German Hoops. Since the loss on the road in Strassburg over Easter, Chalon rebounded and had a 5 game winning streak, but got it snapped with a 100-83 loss against Le Mans. That was the most points Chalon gave up this season. How can one explain a breakdown on defense like that at near the post season?
Against Le Mans we played bad defense as a team. Sometimes you have those games, but the important thing is how you bounce back, and we did that against Pau.
This week Chalon will prepare for the Fiba Europe Cup at home. How thrilled are you that the final 4 will be in your home court and what is special about your fan base that will give the team a big advantage?
We are very happy that the Final 4 will be on our home court. We have the best fans in France and I know it will be a full arena. I know they will make a lot of noise and I cant wait to see the atmosphere.
You have reached your first international club tournament final 4. Has the realization kicked in yet that all you need is to win two games to win that coveted title?
It is a big accomplishment, but we are not satisfied. We are very focused, and we want to win it all. We will do everything in our power to win.
Chalon had an amazing 14-3 Fiba Europe Cup season. What was the secret to the success of the team being able to reach the Final 4?
We have a high powered offense and it is very hard for teams to stop our attack. We have many shooters and a great inside presence so it is difficult for teams to guard us for 40 minutes.
Is the fact that the team has no real superstar keep the club grounded and focus on that team basketball aspect more?
In my opinion we have many superstars. I think if you put some of our players on different teams they could lead their teams and average a lot more points and have better stats, but we have guys sacrificing their own numbers for the team and that is a beautiful thing.
How much credit does head coach Jean-Denys Choulet get for being able to get the club on the right page early and building a healthy team chemistry with 5 new Americans on board?
He gets a lot of the credit. His system is what allows us to play so efficiently. We have plays that allow everyone to touch the ball, and he allows us to play our game. He is a great motivator, and he gives his players a lot of freedom.
Devin Booker has had his real breakthrough this season with Chalon. How raw is this guy still in his second professional season and are the NBA rumors legit?
Devin is a beast! He has showed me a lot this season. His athleticism is crazy, he can handle the ball, shoot the ball with consistency and is strong enough to bang down low. Sometimes I call him “Melo” because of his versatility and the way he can face up and knock down the mid range jumper.
Teammate Jeremy Hazell is the team´s leading scorer. What still amazes you about his game every time he steps on the court?
Jeremy can score at will. When he is hot he is unstoppable! He is so long that sometimes his defenders don’t realize it and he just shoots over them with ease. He is also more athletic than I thought. He can finish around the basket easily, and has gotten a couple posters this year that were nasty.
In the first semi-final Chalon tackle Italian team Varese who are currently ninth in the Serie A and had a 12-6 record in the Fiba Europe Cup. Chalon average 10 points more in the competition while both teams give up 77 points. What kind of game can we await?
I think it will be very offensive minded. Both teams can score. Both teams have great players and many shooters. It will be a fun game to watch.
Varese has a potent roster with ex NBA players Chris Wright, Brandon Davies and Maalik Wayns as well as talented European players. What will be key to reaching the final?
We have to slow those guys down in order to win. All 3 of those guys are capable of dropping 30 so we have to play aggressive defense and try not to let them get anything easy.
You are playing your first season with Chalon and having a very solid season shooting over 40% from outside in the France league and Europe Cup and fourth in assists in the Pro A. Is the Pro A a league that fits your style of play?
Pro A definitely fits my style. Fast pace a lot of athletes, but it is a very tough league. Many great point guards who can score so it has been a challenge, but I think it raises my game at the same time knowing I have to bring my A game every night.
You play on a team with many talented players, but would you classify yourself as a pass first guard or more a point guard that mixes up the playmaking/scoring whatever is needed most?
I like to do whatever my team needs. I can score and I can pass also so its whatever my team needs that night. I like to get my teammates involved first and then look for opportunities to score later in the game.
You are a guard that can fill up the stat sheet, but what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
I try to keep my turnovers down. My favorite point guard is Chris Paul and he does an amazing job at never turning the ball over so I try to minimize my mistakes as much as I can.
You had a solid college career at Texas Tech, but really had to pay your dues in lower leagues for 4 years before getting signed by Chalon. Was there ever a time where it became really difficult knowing you were better than in the leagues that you played in?
Yes I really have played everywhere. It was hard, but I always believed in myself and trusted God that he had a plan for me and that is what kept me believing that I would get my shot.
Your 27 years old now. Have you reached your prime or is there still a lot of good basketball in you that hasn´t been seen yet?
I think my best years are still in front of me. I work very hard in the summer to get better, and my body feels great so I know I can still get better.
Did the three consecutive league titles with Sodertalje Kings (Sweden-Basketligan) kind of make up for the last three years where you were toiling in Sweden and waiting to get that chance in a higher league?
Playing in Sweden was a blessing. I was able to gain a lot of experience. I played in big games, was coached by a great coach in Vedran Bosnic, and I developed a lot as a point guard in the European game so being in Sweden prepared me for where I am today.
As a rookie you played for Zlatorog Lasko (Slovenia-Telemach League). What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far from home in Texas?
Playing in Slovenia I realized that I needed to get better. I thought I was a good player and going to Slovenia made me realize that guys in Europe can play too! I had no idea about the European game or the style of play so it was a culture shock.
You left after a few months and finished the season with the South Carolina Warriors (ABA). How frustrating was your rookie season and what kept you positive that you could go back to Europe and get another job?
My rookie season was very frustrating. After leaving Slovenia I waited for another job but my agent at the time never found me one so I played in SC for the Warriors. I knew I could play in Europe, but I just needed the opportunity. I switched agents and he has done a great job putting me in great situations, and putting me on great teams with fantastic coaches who let me play my game.
You played at Texas Tech from 2007-2011. As a freshman you played under the legendary coach Bobby Knight. What was your introduction to college basketball by him when you arrived?
He was very tough. He expected perfection, and he really pushed me to be better. He taught me a lot about the game, and he helped me mature as a man also.
When you arrived at Texas Tech, what stories do you remember hearing about point guard Ron Ross who played there before you came and did you ever meet him?
I heard a lot of stories about him. I think he was Coach Knight´s favorite player. I heard how he was not highly recruited, but worked his butt off to become a great player, and how he was a tenacious defender. Yes we have met, he is a great guy.
Who was the toughest player that you battled at the NCAA level that is in the NBA today and how did you do?
Blake Griffin always killed us, but a point guard that I matched up with that was a very tough player was DJ Augustin. He was very quick with a great handle. Unreal court vision and speed. I played ok against him, actually beat them at home when they were ranked #3.
In 2007 you were honored as Texas Mr Basketball given to the best high school player in the state. When one looks at the illustrious list of winners in the past with Shaq, Jimmy King, Larry Johnson, Chris Bosh, or Kendrick Perkins, how do you feel about the award today at 27 then when you were 18 as a senior at Plano?
Looking back on it I now realize how special of an award it was. When I was in HS I just looked at it as another award I could stick in the trophy case, but now I realize how many great players there were in Texas at the time, and for me to win that award is very humbling.
Who would win a game today the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls or the 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors?
That is a tough one. I will have to go with the Bulls! Cant bet against MJ!
Kobe Bryant has retired. What has been your most memorable Kobe experience watching him play over the years?
My most memorable moments are watching him in the Playoffs. His last two championships when he did it without Shaq are my most favorite moments because he was unbelievable, and he involved his teammates a lot more, so people couldn’t hate on him about not passing!
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie I saw was The Revenant. Great movie about survival. Doing whatever it takes to survive against all odds! Leonardo di Caprio is the best!
Thanks John for the chat.