The player of the year race is not about which player is most valuable to his team. At least, not exactly. The evaluation includes a subjective component related to the quality of the player’s team. That’s why Grambling’s Quincy Roberts has no shot at getting any fame from his performance this season. I’ll try to do my small part to change that in the next few paragraphs, because there’s a strong case that there’s no player in the nation more valuable to his team.
First the backstory: Roberts was recruited to St. John’s by then-head coach Norm Roberts (no relation) and spent his freshman season (way back in 2009) being the sixth man on a team that limped into the CBI with a 16-17 record. Roberts’ stats screamed out transfer – the 6-5 wing posted an offensive rating of just 85 while using a mere 18% of the Red Storm’s possessions when he was on the floor. He wasn’t a great shooter, he couldn’t draw fouls and he committed too many turnovers while not denting the rebound or assist columns either. In short, Roberts was overmatched by the Big East level of play.
However, Roberts didn’t run from the situation. He redshirted the 2010 season after suffering an off-season concussion and then he stuck around through the coaching change the following spring, remaining on the Johnnies’ roster at the beginning of Steve Lavin’s first season. Under Lavin, Roberts was relegated to less playing time than the season before, prompting him to leave the program after taking all of eight field goal attempts.
His move was interesting to say the least, heading to Grambling, a team that is habitually inept during its annual pre-conference barnstorming tour to power conference schools. The story on his decision to leave is told here by James Phillips of the Harrisburg Patriot News. But basically, Roberts wanted to play at an HBCU and be in a smaller town. Even though there are better programs that fit that description, he chose Grambling to finish his eligibility.
This season for Grambling has been disappointing even by the Tigers’ standards and the team is chasing a new low for offensive futility at the D-I level. In non-conference play, Grambling made 30.3% of its two-point attempts. Consider that the average D-I team makes about 34% of its three-point attempts. Grambling’s 0-10 record during that stretch was accompanied by a luck rating of .000, meaning that 0-10 was absolutely and completely deserved. Their closest non-conference loss was a 28-point decision to Texas Tech. In eight of their ten losses, they scored 45 points or fewer.
Because Roberts transferred mid-season from St. John’s, he was not eligible to play in Grambling’s first eight games. Since he avoided the tougher defenses on the Tigers’ schedule, Grambling’s player stats summary looks comical. Roberts has an offensive rating of 98 to go with a usage of 36 (and a shot percentage of 41!), while none of his lesser-involved teammates has an offensive rating higher than 82. However, limiting the data to the six games in which Roberts has played indicates that he truly is substantially better than his fellow Tigers on the offensive end. That data is shown below.
2PM-A 3PM-A FTM-A Roberts 51-114 .447 11-31 .355 43-52 .827 Others 64-199 .322 10-49 .204 49-72 .681
Considering the easier slate of opponents over this time and that Roberts is attracting more of the defense’s attention, Grambling’s “others” are still a woeful offensive bunch. Since he became eligible, Roberts has taken 39% of the team’s threes, 42% of its free throws, and has still found the time to take 114 twos in his six games on the court and make a respectable 45% of them. Nobody could blame him if he became more selfish. Feel free to blow away Jimmer-type levels of shooting frequency, Mr. Roberts. I have your back.
Grambling has won two of its first four SWAC games, which is noteworthy because the team without Roberts had a reasonable chance of skating through the entire season without a W. Even with his presence, the Tigers are still last nationally in two-point percentage and second-to-last in three-point percentage.
The money quote from Roberts in the Patriot-News piece was “coming from the Big East, I’m going to kill this league.” He has made good on that promise and he’s doing it without any help. While Grambling is much better with his presence, it’s probably not good enough for the Tigers to finish in the top half of the SWAC.
So you aren’t going to see Grambling on TV, and in fact, I can’t even find a photo of Roberts in a Grambling uniform. He is an anonymous dude whom you will have to work hard to keep dibs on, but it’s worth doing so. When you’re the team’s most frequent shooter (by far) and you are much more accurate than your teammates in every shooting category, you are special. Or at least in a special situation.