Tyler Roberson came to the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program as a four-star prospect out of high school, and was ranked as a Top 50 player in the 2013 class.
He simply hasn’t lived up to the hype, and it’s largely due to his inconsistency over the past four years.
Roberson has had a pretty good college career — all things considered. He’s been to a Final Four, has 726 career points and 80 wins. He ranks 26th in SU history with 664 total rebounds. His 313 rebounds last season ranks 12th-best in program history for a single season dating back to 1956-57.
Now just imagine if Roberson had any sort of consistency during his four-year career at Syracuse.
In his freshman season at SU, Roberson wasn’t much of a factor at all. The Tyler Ennis-led Orange started out 25-0, but were ultimately upset by Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He only played 162 minutes in 20 games, and Syracuse finished 28-6.
During his sophomore season, Roberson saw a big increase in minutes and overall role on the team. Jerami Grant was gone, Rakeem Christmas was a senior and Dajuan Coleman was fighting injuries. He averaged 8.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game.
As for consistency, Roberson recorded a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in the season opener against Kennesaw State. However, it took him exactly one month to score in double-figures again, which came on December 14 against Louisiana Tech. He also grabbed 17 rebounds that game, giving him his second double-double of the season.
His best game of the season came against No. 4 Duke at the Carrier Dome. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but it was mostly due to the Blue Devils’ defensive scheme to contain Rakeem Christmas. Freshman Jahlil Okafor was covering Christmas, and help defense was there each time he received the ball in the post, which left Roberson open for uncontested layups all night long.
Last season, Roberson helped the Orange reach its sixth Final Four in program history. But it came with more inconsistent play. At one point during the season, Jim Boeheim told the media if he had anyone else on the roster, Roberson wouldn’t play. Luckily for Roberson, the team didn’t have much depth in the front court and he continued to receive minutes.
His best game, again, came against Duke. He scored 14 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in a win — which set a record for most rebounds by an opposing player at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He followed up his 14-and-20 game with six points and seven rebounds in a loss to Virginia the following weekend.
Roberson scored in double-figures in five straight games which included three straight double-doubles — the best stretch of his career — but it ended with the Duke game. After that, he only scored in double-figures in consecutive games one more time.
And that’s what frustrates Boeheim (and Orange fans) the most. We all see what Roberson can do, but he doesn’t always come through. Whether it’s an effort issue or something else — the consistency has never been there for an extended period of time.
And now to his senior season at Syracuse, Boeheim doesn’t hesitate to rip on Roberson any chance he gets. It seems like once a week we hear about how Roberson didn’t come to play, turned the ball over too often or was disappointing in another way.
He’s scored in double-figures in consecutive games just once — the first two of the season. He has back to back double-digit rebounds in just once (Pitt and Va. Tech). And he’s grabbed five rebounds or less in nine of 20 games. And for the last few years, Roberson has been one of the ACC’s best rebounder, which has always been based off of potential — or a brief stretch of excellence.
Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije, Malachi Richardson, Dajuan Coleman, Frank Howard and Tyler Lydon have all called Roberson one of the top rebounders in the country. The only problem is we see it sporadically, not consistently.
It comes down to effort and passion. You can’t teach either — it’s just something a player has to have on his own.
He’s been here for four years and still doesn’t have a mid-range jumper. His offensive game hasn’t developed the way most thought it would, but his athleticism bails him out at times with offensive rebounds and put-backs. He’s a career 61 percent free throw shooter, which decreased his sophomore and junior seasons before bumping up a little this season.
Motivation builds consistency, and maybe Roberson just doesn’t have enough of that motivation to pull that off.
He still has time to write the ending to his story, though. There’s 11 regular season games left plus whatever happens in the postseason (ACC Tournament and maybe beyond). He still has time to show he can be consistent, but will he?
We’ll see what happens next.