‘He’s the Heart and Soul of Our Program’
LARAMIE -- Jeff Linder wasn't shocked when Cort Roberson stepped up to the free-throw line and drained two shots last Tuesday night.
The block, however.
"If you would have probably said, 'Hey, what are the chances of him getting a block?' I would have said probably slim to none," Wyoming's third-year head coach joked, referring to the 6-foot, 157-pound guard's late-game rejection in an 85-62 victory over Fresno State. "I probably would've said hell froze over but, shoot, man, Laramie is already frozen over."
Sure, maybe Roberson's stat sheet is a little barren. The redshirt freshman has appeared in just two games -- playing a grand total of four minutes -- and has scored just three points, all coming at the charity stripe, but his role in this program can not be understated.
You rarely see it, but Roberson's main job is to prepare his teammates. Think scout-team quarterback.
"He's just a really special kid," Linder said. "He's so selfless. I mean, he knows every play that every team in our league runs as good as the other team knows it."
Behind the scenes, Roberson -- along with the rest of the "blue-collar boys" -- aided the Cowboys' run to the NCAA Tournament last season. Without him, Linder said, that magical ride might not have happened.
His team knows it, too.
"I mean, he's kind of the heart and soul of our program," forward Jeremiah Oden said. "It's just what he comes in and does every day. It doesn't necessarily show up to the public, but we know how big of an impact he has."
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UW assistant coach Sundance Wicks is known for bringing the "juice" to practice. His infectious personality and positive outlook sets him apart during the grind of a college basketball season.
He's not the only one, though.
Roberson can be spotted on game night, flailing his arms, clapping and urging on his teammates from the sidelines. Last season, he was part of that "BCB" fraternity, along with Nate Barnhart, John Grigsby, Eoin Nelson and Ben Bowen, taking part in choreographed celebrations. Heck, they even have their own T-shirts.
That wasn't just an act. It was true enthusiasm for the game.
"Those are the types of guys that, you know, they're invaluable," Linder said. "People don't see just because he's at the end of the bench but, man, he's invaluable to what we do."
Oh, by the way, Linder said Roberson can play a little bit, too.
The Arlington, Wash., product earned First Team All-Wesco Honors at Stanwood High School. Linder said Roberson had other opportunities to play at smaller colleges. Instead, he chose UW. Why? Linder said he wants to fight and prove he can play at this level.
"You can't fault somebody like that," Linder added. "I mean, those are the type of kids that you want in your program."
The crowd inside the Arena-Auditorium Tuesday night was sparse. A late tip coupled with poor weather conditions aided in that. The announced attendance of 3,950 all rose to their feet when the redshirt freshman headed to the scorer's table. Smiles creased the faces of all five on the floor.
"It's always nice to see walk-on's get their shining moment," forward Hunter Thompson said. "Cort deserves it. He does a great job giving us a good look in scout. It's not like he's just a scout player, he still comes in and gets a lot of work in by himself. So, I'm very happy for him."
Linder, who played college basketball with Roberson's father, Harlan, at then Western State College of Colorado, said Roberson's love for the game is infectious. He said he can shoot. In fact, he reminds him a bit of himself -- and his dad -- during their playing days in Gunnison.
It's Roberson's work ethic, positive outlook and love for the game, Linder said, that makes him so beloved. He even thinks Roberson could have a gig in the coaching business one day.
"He's willing to fail," Linder added. "But, you know what, he's going to give everything he has. Those guys, that's why you coach is to see guys like that and his success, not just here, but I mean, he'll be successful in whatever he does."
Wyoming (7-14, 2-7) will take on San Jose State (13-9, 4-5) tonight inside the Provident Credit Union Events Center. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
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