BOZICH | Indiana helps former all-star McRoberts fall in love with basketball again
One year after walking away from a basketball scholarship at Vermont, former Indiana all-star Zach McRoberts has walked on to the basketball program at Indiana.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Thousands of Indiana University students stood in the cold and snow, waiting in lines that cued in front of Assembly Hall to watch Tom Crean’s basketball team push toward the Big Ten championship last season.
Zach McRoberts was not one of those students.
He completed his entire sophomore season at IU without attending one Hoosiers’ game -- even though McRoberts was a former Indiana all-star.
“I didn’t get tickets because they add to your bill,” McRoberts said. “They’re tough to come by.”
Truth be told, McRoberts wasn’t certain how much he loved basketball any more. Now he knows.
Next season, he will have a seat in the front row. Crean said he would not be surprised if McRoberts forced his way on the court with the Hoosiers, the way walk-ons often do.
“Zach has ability,” Crean said. “He knows how to play. I’m glad we have him.”
McRoberts, an Indiana all-star two seasons ago, has officially joined the Hoosiers as a walk-on, one year after he gave up a scholarship at Vermont to become just another economics major in the IU College of Arts and Sciences, playing intramural basketball.
Crean has never been afraid to wave walk-ons into challenging situations. He did it last season with Ryan Burton and Harrison Niego. He did it out of necessity during his early seasons in Bloomington when the IU roster was depleted by turnover.
Indiana did not offer McRoberts a scholarship in high school, even though his team at Carmel in the northern Indianapolis suburbs won state championships during his sophomore and junior seasons.
He was an unranked recruit nationally, a guy pursued by Northern Kentucky, Wright State, Miami (Ohio) and Vermont. He picked the Catamounts. As a freshman, he averaged nearly 20 minutes per game, scoring 4.2 points with 4.4 rebounds.
As a sophomore, McRoberts likely would have played more. At 6 feet 6, McRoberts is a slender, 190-pound forward who celebrates playing defense and sharing the basketball.
But after one season he left Vermont and enrolled at IU – as student.
“I just wanted to experience life as a student and see what that had to offer,” he said. “It was kind of like I was done playing.”
No basketball. Other than intramurals – and McRoberts will tell you that his team was not great.
A season of being at Indiana with the campus buzzing about basketball had an effect on McRoberts. It re-ignited McRoberts’ competitive spirit. Last spring he called assistant coach Tim Buckley and said he was interested in joining the IU program without a scholarship.
“Being away from it for a year gave me a new perspective,” he said. “One thing I missed when I wasn’t playing was just being part of a team. Having those guys that always have your back, 40 hours a week, however long you’re with them. Seeing them so together definitely was appealing.”
Buckley invited him to Cook Hall, IU’s practice facility. He worked out with the other players. Crean liked McRoberts. McRoberts liked Crean. On Tuesday they made it official. He’ll be with the team, eligible to play next season.
“He’s got to get stronger and improve his shot, but he’ll do that,” Crean said. “He knows how to work.”
McRoberts does not expect fame or even playing time. He simply expects an opportunity to improve and become a part of a team.
“Pushing my teammates, being able to make them better,” he said. “Not worried about stats or playing time. Whatever I can do.
“Playing high school, I was kind of defensive minded. That’s been kind of my strong suit. Been working on my shot a lot. (He wants to become) a knockdown shooter if I can get in, spread the floor a little bit. I want to bring some toughness. Bring some heart.”
There is a reason McRoberts’ last name is familiar. He is the younger brother of Josh McRoberts, a top 40 recruit nationally who finished third (to Luke Zeller and Dominique James) in Indiana’s Mr. Basketball voting in 2005.
After playing two seasons at Duke, McRoberts departed for the NBA. He just finished his eighth professional season while playing for Miami, his sixth NBA team. Zach shared the news with his brother earlier this week.
“He was excited to see me play again,” McRoberts said.
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