Ronald Roberts is a 27 year old 203cm forward from Bayonne, New Jersey that is playing his fifth professional season and first with Science City Jena. Last season he played with Hapoel Jerusalem (Israel-Winner League) playing 28 games averaging 10.8ppg, 7.3rpg, FGP-1 (75.3%), FT: 67.6%; and played 4 Eurocup games averaging 8.3ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.0bpg. Two seasons ago he played with Tofas Bursa (Turkey-BSL): playing 10 games averaging 11.7ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 64.5%, FT: 64.0%. He played his first two professional seasons in the States and was with the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors, but played primarily in the G-League with Delaware, Santa Cruz and the Raptors 905. He played at St.Joseph’s (NCAA) from 2010-2014 playing a total of 130 NCAA games and as a senior played 32 games averaging 14.4ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.3apg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 60.0%, FT: 59.5%. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a game against the Fraport Skyliners.
Ronald thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Congrats on signing with Science City Jena. You have so many legends as teammates that could tell you great stories, but what many might not know is that Shaq was born in Bayonne and grew up next door in Newark. Do you have any stories about Shaq or have you even bumped into him in your lifetime?
The only thing that I can say is that he went to Horace Mann elementary school. I also went there and can just remember all the kids just saying that Shaq went there. Everybody always talked about him. I think he goes back to Newark more than he does to Bayonne.
Last season you played against FC Bayern Munich losing. Is this now your second time in Germany or have you been here before?
My first or second Eurocup game was against FC Bayern Munich. I remember that at that time I was in between teams. I was coming off a long layoff and wasn’t really in game shape. Despite that, I played very good in Munich and it was my Eurocup break out game.
You have only played in Turkey and Israel previously before coming to Jena. What has been your impression of the German easyCredit BBL in comparison to the other countries that you have played in in Europe?
I think the German league is a pretty good league. I think that it is more similar to Turkey. There are more scorers in Germany whereas in Turkey you have less the top scorers like here. The league is more balanced in Germany whereas in Israel you have top heavy teams, but then there is a drop off.
You have come to a team that has been losing this season. How tough has it been coming in so late and having to produce as best you can?
To be honest the thing that I’m most happy about now that I can be playing for Science City Jena. I am so grateful that I can wake up every day and go to the gym and play basketball. I want to win as many games as possible with this club. It really hasn’t been difficult coming into this tough situation. I just want to win as much as possible and build off each win.
You have joined a team with many amazing legends like Derrick Allen, Dru Joyce, Immanuel Mcelroy and Julius Jenkins. Three are 38 years ago. You’re a young buck compared to them at age 27. Had you heard of anyone one of them or even knew one personally before coming in?
To be honest I didn’t know or had heard of anyone here. But I’m really glad to be able to ab around each guy and learn as much as possible.
Obviously all four players give their special twist to the team, but if you had to chose one player that has impressed you the most who would it be? Possibly the relentless work ethic of D.A?
Yes D.A is crazy. I was just about to mention him before you did. He comes to work every day like a 25 year old ready to play. He has this special bounce to his step and is always very prepared physically and mentally. It is always good to see a special player like that and to learn as much as possible from and to be able to look up to him.
You have needed no adjustment period coming to Science City Jena and you have accepted your role and played it very well. What has been your secret to being able to fit in so well?
With me it is just the desire to want to play hard. That is the kind of player I am. I have that relentless attitude to be able to fit in anywhere. I try to focus on defense and get as many rebounds as possible and let the game come to me.
Science City Jena is in a real battle to stay in the league. Do you feel like the team has less pressure simply because of that experience factor and how confident are you that the team will remain in the league?
I don’t feel any pressure. We will be fine. We will stay in the league and haven’t been thinking of anything else. I have never been in that situation where a team has been in the situation of being sent down. It doesn’t look good and I don’t want it to happen. We know what is at stake, but feel no pressure. There are still many games left and we will be prepared.
What kind of experience has it been playing for Bjoern Harmsen who is a big Pat Riley fan and already wrote books at a young age. What have you appreciated most about his coaching style?
Coach is very smart. He just knows how to do everything right. If it’s about getting on guys or talking to them. He also knows when he has to be more calm with a player. He also knows when to yell at a guy. He simply gets the best out of his players. I really like his coaching style.
You have so many great experienced players that have played in Germany plus you have the experienced ex NBA player Reggie Williams. What has been the most interesting conversation that you have had with him concerning basketball?
We came in at the same time and we know that we need to win. Winning is all that we talk about. We were brought to Jena to help win games. We always give each other that look about having to win. We both know that that is most important.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 203cm forward that can score and rebound the ball at ease. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit that description?
I’m not really sure. Maybe someone like a Kenneth Farried or a Tristan Thompson. I’m a undersized big man that always brings energy and works hard. I think that I probably have a better mid range jumper than they do at this level. My mid range jumper is something that I continue to work on
On many other teams you would be one of the oldest, but with Science City Jena you’re the ninth oldest. What kind of role do you have? Do you have any duties that you can perform where you incorporate your experience despite having so many experienced players?
I don’t feel like that rests on my shoulders. I have always been a hard worker and am more of a listener than talker. I listen as much as I can and have always led by example and not been so vocal.
You have been known as being an extreme good hustler. What other area’s in your game do you take a lot of pride in on the court?
Just that hustling. I play with a lot of energy and use that as my motor to my advantage. My hustling on the court is my biggest attribute.
Now at age 27 what are things are you most working on to continue to improve your game? Is there a particular teammate that has helped you craft your game?
Just my shot really. They say that the older you get the more you have to extend your shot. I continue to work on that. Thank God that I still have my athleticism, but that will fade away one day. So that is why I continue to always work on my shot.
Last season you played with Hapoel Jerusalem (Israel-Winner League) playing 28 games avergaing 10.8ppg, 7.3rpg, FGP-1 (75.3%), FT: 67.6%; and played 4 Eurocup games averaging 8.3ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.0bpg. Americans are always raving about the incredible lifestyle in Israel. What was your coolist experience in Israel that you will never forget?
Just being able to live in the Holy Land in Jerusalem. Not many Americans can say that they had the opportunity to live there in their lifetime. I saw so many amazing things while playing for Hapoel. I remember going to the Holy Sea the lowest point on earth. I was blessed to have been able to learn something new each day. As an American you always read so much about Israel, but then to be living there is cool. Israel is a very beautiful country.
What kind of experience was it being teammates with ex NBA player and experienced Euroleague player Tarence Kinsey. Was he one of those teammates that you will never forget having?
I will never forget him. He is a great guy and a guy I looked up to. I really respect his career and also having played with the Cavs and with Lebron James. When I was there, he had been slowed down by injuries, but the guy can still play at a high level.
Two seasons ago you played with Tofas Bursa (Turkey-BSL) playing 10 games averaging 11.7ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 64.5%, FT: 64.0%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
That season was tough. I was away from my girlfriend and family. In college I was only 1.45 minutes away from home so I could see my parents every now and then. In Turkey it was basketball that kept me going. I just stayed in the gym. Basketball is what we live for. Bursa was a good experience for me.
You had the fortune of having very experienced teammates where ever you have been in Europe. In Turkey you were teammates with ex Depaul (NCAA) stand out Sammy Mejia. What was your special story with him that you will never forget?
The funny thing is that Sammy and I have similar back rounds. We are both form the Dominican Republic. He was a nice guy and good leader. I also learned a lot from him. He is a few years older than Kinsey, but like him can still play at a high level.
You played your first two seasons in the states being with the 76ers and Raptors, but spent the majority of your time in the G-League. What was the best example in those two years where you saw that the NBA is a business no matter what?
I never talked about this, but I was very close to making the Toronto Raptors. It was shortly before training camp and Anthony Bennett was released by the Timberwolves. He had a guaranteed contract while I didn’t. So he took my roster spot. I had no chance. That is when I knew that the NBA is strictly a business.
You had the kind of mind-boggling G-League stats that should have warranted a NBA call up. Do you feel like you were close at one time or did injuries curtail it?
In my second year in the G-League, I was the number one player in the league. But then I got hurt. Teams didn’t know I was hurt. I actually had two call ups on the table. So my agent had to inform the teams that I was hurt. I have had so many unfortunate injuries in my career, but I am so grateful I am playing now. When I think back at all the times when I was at home and was rehabbing, is when I am really grateful that I am playing somewhere like now.
Was your 39 point game and 19 rebound game against Reno your best professional game? What memories do you have of this game?
I don’t know if that was my best professional game. The Reno defense was a little weak. Their press was horrible. I just did what I had to do. I got a lot of easy baskets that game. It looked good on paper, but I got a lot of easy baskets because of their strange playing style.
After two seasons in Europe, are you concentrating on winning titles and making money in Europe or is there still a back door open to the NBA?
I’m not sure. I’m taking it day by day. I’m not even thinking of the future. The most important thing in my career now is my health. So much has been taken away from me concerning my health.
You played at St.Joseph’s (NCAA) from 2010-2014. Was winning the Atlantic 10 tournament in 2014 closing out your career your biggest highlight there scoring 15 points and posting 11 boards in the win against VCU?
Winning the title was my biggest achievement there. We had had the same core of guys and the first few years were tough. To be together four years and then get rewarded at the end was great. Winning that championship was everything for us.
You played four seasons with Langston Galloway. What were your fondest memories with him and would you welcome being teammates as professionals down the road?
He is a great guy and one of the best persons that I have ever met. He is a really good person and comes from a good family. I loved playing with him and he is one of my good friends. I talk to him all the time and see him in the off season. I would love to be teammates with him again.
In your senior year, you saw a young freshman by the name of Deandre Bembry come in. If someone had told you then that he would land in the NBA later would you have believed it?
Yes I would have believed it. I remember how he played in the first workout. He was killing in that first workout. I remember thinking he is really good. Mentally he was ready as a freshman and picked up on the plays and college basketball a lot quicker than I did. That really impressed me then.
Do you see him becoming a consistent NBA lifer after having two tough seasons with Atlanta?
I think that he will be in time. He is a good player. I feel that the more he gets out there and people see him play and take more notice, then he will stick. He has had tough injuries.
You took part at the NCAA Final 4 slam dunk contest. What kind of experience was that and what memories do you have of that?
I feel I got robbed. There were around six guys that took part. The most notable guys that you might know are Adrien Payne and Corey Jefferson. I felt that they didn’t have the best judges. There were hockey and football people that did the judging. Plus Avery Johnson was also a judge who wasn’t really known as a dunker in the NBA. No disrespect to him, but it was what it was.
How did head coach Phil Martelli groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career at St.Joseph’s (NCAA)?
He was just a genuine guy. He was straight forward and just told me how it was. He always told me how to do things better. I see him every summer. I’m glad that I went there and wouldn’t have changed the experience for anything.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Halil Kanacevic?
We used to go at it all the time. We had good 1-1 games. But what I liked most about him was his passing. He was a great passer and I loved it when he threw up alley-ops to me.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
Andrew Nicholson. He was a tough player. He was two years older than I was. I couldn’t do anything with him. He was a very efficient player that could shoot, had a nice jump hook and could use bot hands well.
If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose?
I would take my college teammates because we were together so long.
If you had to construct your very own NBA mount Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaq and Wilt Chamberlain.
What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?
Lebron James is the best player ever. Jordan has the wins. But in order to get those wins, you need to have the teammates. You can’t have just one player to win the title, but need to have teammates as well.
You saw first hand how much talent Luka Doncic has last season. When all is said and done, could be on of the greatest European players that ever played in the NBA?
I think that he is off to a good start. He needs to go up a notch each season and stay healthy. It will be interesting to see what happens.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Ronald for the chat.