The University of Dayton star is one of eight NBA draft hopefuls living at the renowned training facility in Bradenton, Fla., and his playing style has undergone a radical transformation since he made the $8,500 investment for the full pre-draft program in late April.
The 6-foot-2 guard was most comfortable at UD in a half-court setting, and he rode a nearly automatic jumper to 1,962 career points. But the IMG staff has stressed that his conversion into an NBA point guard will require him to tap into his athleticism and create shots for himself in transition.
"He plays more of a fundamental, solid, point-guard position, where I think he should be playing more like (the San Antonio Spurs') Tony Parker, which is incredible pace, attacking people, getting to the rim, finishing creatively, having no fear," said David Thorpe, executive director of the Pro Training Center at IMG.
"He said the Dayton coaches wished he'd played more that way as well, and he just couldn't seem to get it going. Sometimes it takes graduating from college — and seeing you're not where you need to be to make your ultimate dream come true — to kind of take that next step. We're seeing that."
Roberts was admonished early in his stay for being content in pick-up games to penetrate and dish off, but he's learned to treat every trip into the lane as a scoring opportunity.
"Overall, I've become a better player," he said. "I feel like from listening to the coaches down here, the pro game is totally different than the college game. They say it's like a totally different sport. I'm watching the NBA playoffs and trying to see myself out there and see where I could make plays."
Typical days at IMG are filled with far more than just pick-up games. The group — which includes Pat Calathes of Saint Joseph's, Courtney Lee of Western Kentucky and VMI's Reggie Williams, who led the nation in scoring — has been led through a cutting-edge program that includes speed work, weight training, individual drills and even mental conditioning.
"When I first got down here, when we got done at about 5:30, I'd get back to my place and couldn't help but fall asleep at about 7 o'clock because I'd be so tired," Roberts said. "It took me a while to get adjusted to it. It's still a lot of hard work."
Roberts will leave IMG today for the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando, but the campus will remain his home base.
He hopes to hear his name called during the two-round NBA draft on June 26. After that, he'll look to land in the NBA summer league.
"I told him I have no sympathy for him if he doesn't make the NBA next year and ends up in Europe," Thorpe said. "He's probably a six-figure player in Europe — in Year 1 — and most of us at 22 don't make that kind of money.
"And with hard work, I think he can have an amazing career. I also think he's a guy who may surprise some people and end up in the NBA next year."