Starting point guard, Gregory Roberts, of UTM’s varsity men’s basketball team and the OCAA’s current leading scorer, was determined to never play basketball. Despite the push from his parents, Roberts was stubborn, “You can’t make me play basketball,” he remembers arguing with his parents.
For the obvious reasons, Roberts’ parents made sure he participated in at least one sport to stay physically active and healthy. And he did. After 8 years of soccer, though he was good at it, he’d lost interest. After a season of volleyball, he realized it wasn’t the right fit. At 13 he finally caved to his parent’s insistence and went to a basketball minicamp where he fell in love.
Despite being new to the game, Roberts was a quick study. After a couple of mini-camps, Roberts joined a house-league team, where he caught the eye of a rep coach who later recruited him. Roberts’ introduction and early success in the game didn’t end there. He became the only 7th grader at Sir John A. MacDonald Public School to make the school’s basketball team. That year his school won the city championship.
Roberts’ love of basketball carried into and throughout high school, where he continued working and perfecting his craft. His hard work paid off when he was recruited to play in Philadelphia at Rise Academy, where Kyle Kuzma, starting power forward for the L.A. Lakers, was his teammate. Roberts’ basketball story took him back home to Canada, to UTM. He didn’t think he’d stay long, looking to transfer out to join a Division 1 school. Now in his fifth year, completing a major in Psychology and a double minor in both Computer Science and Sociology, Roberts says UTM’s become a second home.
This year Roberts’ drive took him to try going professional, to try-out for the Raptor 905, the G-League affiliate of the NBA Toronto Raptors, which developed current and rising NBA players like starting forward Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Fred Vanfleet, Norman Powell and Delon Wright. Roberts got deep into the tryout process, nearly receiving a training camp invite. Despite having his road to the professionals cut short, he’s hungrier and more focused than ever. “I knew I could have what it took to be a Div. 1 player. I knew I had the skill for it. But I also knew I wasn’t where I needed to be physically, in order to make that transition. In terms of playing university ball, for UTM, I just love basketball, and I want to play at the highest level,” he says.
Roberts leads his teammates on the court and leads the OCAA in points per game, 26.1, both of which he says isn’t always easy. But he hopes what he does off the court inspires and motivates them, just as much as what he does on the court. Especially when it comes to his work ethic and willingness to play hard each game, he inspires his teammates to do the same. Aside from their regular season scheduled games, the men’s basketball team has three practices per week and workout sessions with team Strength and Conditioning Coach, Darren Turner, but Roberts puts a lot of his own time into improving. “I spend a lot of time in the gym. I spend a lot of the time in the weight room, getting shots up and watching [game] film. The guys know I want it, they know the level that I want to reach. They know I put in the work. I also hold guys accountable. It’s not easy because some guys get a little defensive, and I have to try and reiterate that I’m doing it for the betterment of the team. Just trying to get guys to understand that ‘you’ may want to do something, but that’s not going to help us win.” And it’s true his teammates look up to him. “Greg’s the best player on the team. And he’s a good leader,” says friend and teammate Shaquille David.
Not only does Roberts feel as a leader he needs to hold his teammates accountable, but he needs to encourage and praise them as well. Roberts is particularly proud of his teammates second year guard, Kyle Boorman, and first year forward, Lukas Louhikari. Roberts loves how Boorman is always working hard and sacrificing. “He plays his role real well. I can always count on him to play hard. He’s my sniper [3-point shooter], one of them. He’s always working, always knocking down shots. He’s one guy I’ve been really impressed with, and I hope he continues to grow.” He continues, “Luk is another player who’s surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect with a freshman. He doesn’t try to do too much, but still remains aggressive. He’s also one of my designated snipers.”
Roberts has never really considered what his legacy might be when he leaves UTM. He has ambitions to pursue his dream of maybe one day playing in the NBA, and if he has success, he hopes it inspires up and coming players about what can be achieved when you stay hungry and strive for the best in yourself. “I want my success, if I do make it to the NBA, to be an example for future players. At what can be possible if you put in the work. If you really want something, go get it. And also, there’s so much more to school than academics. Never stop striving for greatness for yourself, in no matter what you choose to do.”
UTM’s varsity men’s basketball team are on the road this weekend, playing the St. Clair College Saints on Saturday and the Lambton College Lions Sunday. You can see him in action when the Eagles host the Conestoga Condors at home this coming Wednesday, January 30th at 8 p.m.