After traveling to Canada with their college teammates last season, rising sophomores Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson went on a little trip of their own to Estonia this summer and took full advantage of the opportunity.
Since college basketball teams can only go on summer trips to foreign countries once every four years, the Syracuse Orange, one year removed from a trip to Canada, were not able to do so again. Roberson and Johnson took advantage of their free time and played for the USA East Coast All-Star team that participated in the Four Nations Cup in Estonia this past week. Despite their team going 2-2 in four games, both Orange youngsters played very well.
Johnson averaged 15.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per outing in three games played. He twisted his right ankle in a win on Wednesday against Estonia and decided to not play in Helsinki against the Finnish pro team called the Helsinki Seagulls. Roberson, who did play in the final game, scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. He had two double-digit scoring performances in the four games, while averaging a double-double with 11.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. The players will return to the states on Friday.
Boeheim weighed in on the performance of both of his players, telling Syracuse.com's Donna Ditota: "I think any basketball you play in the summertime helps you. I think last summer's trip to Canada really helped Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. It was important for them. And this summer's trip for B.J. and Tyler (Roberson) because they have to be guys who are main options. That's great for them that they can do that."
Is Jimmy B. foreshadowing a bit here? He says they have to be main options. Both, entering their second year at the Central New York institution, saw minimal time in their first season with the Orange, but we all knew they had some talents of their own to show off.
Johnson, who was also named to the All-Tournament team, is from Lower-Merion High School in Pennsylvania, the same school as Kobe Bryant. That alone has to be exciting, and the long lefty at his size is perfect for the 2-3 zone defense. His shooting ability will give opposing team's fits and will provide more support to the lone sharp-shooter the Orange had last season in Trevor Cooney. They need another guy like him on the court to help improve their offense.
Roberson saw a little more than the 10 games and 55 minutes that Johnson did last season. After DaJuan Coleman went down for the season, Roberson had a couple of opportunities to earn more minutes. He even started one game when Jerami Grant was battling back issues. He never found a way to stay on the court consistently, and to me was one of the most interesting figures on the team because his talent seemed to be wasted. Now, by putting up numbers in the way Boeheim expected of him in Estonia, his role will definitely be changed for the Orange next season. He is an athlete that is not afraid to attack the basket and score while also grabbing a handful of rebounds.
The future is exciting for these two rising stars. With four players who earned significant minutes on last year's team gone, two of them being the same position both Johnson and Roberson play, they will definitely get a shot at those big roles Boeheim said they showed they can play. Look at the success guys like Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Williams and Jerami Grant had in similar situations. All of them did not play major roles in their first year, but all entered the NBA after playing bigger roles in their second season. We may not know exactly what the future holds for Roberson and Johnson, but it is definitely something to be excited about.