Sports Columns

February 20, 2013

Loran Smith: Former Kentucky Wildcat happy in red, too

One of the most loyal buyers of University of Georgia men’s basketball season tickets over the years descended from an ardent Bulldogs family, although he wore Kentucky blue.

Roy Roberts, who is seasoned and sanguine, would like to see the Bulldogs fare better in basketball and never misses a home game.

He could have enrolled at Georgia on an athletic scholarship — his parents’ friendship with the late Georgia football coach Wallace Butts was so entrenched that all Roberts would have needed to do was express an interest. He played center in football for Northside High School in Atlanta, snapping the ball to his best friend Stan Gann, who later played quarterback for Georgia Tech.

“I actually got more football scholarship offers than I did in basketball,” said Roberts, who ended up choosing basketball and playing for the Wildcats from 1959 to 1963.

His older brother Jim was a Georgia football letterman in 1958, while younger brother Billy was a member of Butts’ last signing class, lettering in 1963. Their father Jim lettered as a manager in 1927.

“My family has been identified with Georgia for many years, and I still have great affection for the Bulldogs until they play Kentucky,” Roberts said with a smile. “We have had football season tickets since 1946.”

Since college, Roberts has been running the family farm, managing a large herd of registered Hereford cows on 1,000 acres in Walton County. However, you might think it was a country club, with tennis courts and basketball goals dominating the scene. He has a group of friends who play tennis four times a week. There is a 200-acre lake with big bass and brim, although Roberts said he doesn’t have time to fish with all the farm duties. And of course, there is his continued interest in competitive basketball.

He plays in a senior basketball league sponsored by Piedmont Bank. His team has won a state title four years in a row and claimed a gold medal two years ago in St. George, Utah.

“It is fun to still compete,” Roberts said. “A couple of my teammates are Alan Johnson and Jimmy Pitts, who played for Georgia.”

When George Walton Academy needed a basketball coach a few years ago, they asked Roberts to coach the team. He put in Kentucky’s offense and averaged more than 100 points per game. The program won two state championships.

The only other time he was offered a coaching job was when he was graduated from Kentucky and his coach, Adolph Rupp, invited him to be an assistant. Roberts turned him down, so Rupp hired Joe B. Hall, who went on to be the program’s head coach from 1972 to 1985 and won a national title in 1978.

Still, Roberts doesn’t second-guess his decision. Life down on the farm has been rewarding. And he still buys Kentucky season basketball tickets, even though he seldom returns to Lexington more than a couple of times a year.

At 6 feet 4 inches and 190 pounds, he was an undersized player even for his era. Roberts played in 26 games his junior year and 25 his senior year, scoring 407 career points for a 9.0 points-per-game average.

Where he excelled was on defense. Every day during his sophomore year, he lined up against All-American Billy Ray Lickert, who appreciated his teammate’s tenacity. One day during an interview, Lickert was asked who was the toughest player he had played against during the season. The interviewer was taken aback when Lickert said, “Roy Roberts.”

At the time, Rupp had not given much thought to playing Roberts regularly. Lickert’s comment influenced things. Roy became a starter and played on the team that beat Ohio State during the 1961-62 season. The Buckeyes, who started Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek, extracted revenge in the Mideast Regionals during the NCAA tournament.

Roy found fulfillment in his basketball experience and is about as much of a fan today as any former player.

Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at loransmith@sports.uga.edu.

1
Text Only
Sports Columns
  • Devin Golden: Other sports start practice this week

    Football isn’t the only high school sport during the fall — and the others are joining in this week.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hall of Fame Baseball_Chan2.jpg Chris Whitfield: Memories stay with us, and go with them

    I still remember the pandemonium that broke out in the dorm at Middle Georgia College in tiny Cochran, Ga., the night of “The Slide” in the 1992 National League Championship Series. It was a fire drill, wall street-buying frenzy and a Roman toga party all in one.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Whitfield, Chris.JPG Chris Whitfield: Football fans may lose, but Mora will win with decision

    Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to see some of the finest athletes this state has ever produced. From professional athletes who went on to the NFL, MLB and the NBA to college washouts who still rank as the finest high school athletes I have ever seen, I have been blessed.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry Case: Camping a sure cure for the big city blues

    In case you haven’t noticed, we are looking right down the gun barrel at winding down on another summer.

    July 25, 2014

  • Chris Whitfield's Fairways & Greens: Nob North prepares for 'big date'

    Like anyone getting ready for a big date, golf courses get dressed up when it is time for a major event. But while a woman may put on a little makeup and a man may add a spray of cologne, Nob North Golf Course in Varnell is getting something more akin to Botox.

    July 24, 2014

  • 7on7 day 2 '14 17 mlh.jpg Devin Golden: Friday signals gridiron days’ official start

    Seven-on-seven football was a good placeholder, but it’s time to begin talking about the real thing.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loran Smith: Golf now in era of McIlroy after Open

    Royal & Ancient officials, under whose auspices the Open championship is conducted each year, were blessed with a sun-kissed start of the final round of the 143rd playing of this historic event.

    July 21, 2014

  • Loran Smith: McIlroy at his peak at Hoylake

    HOYLAKE, England — It’s the setting which enraptures those who appreciate the things that accompany a championship, The British refuse to let a downpour or two, intermittent and inconvenient, to make them fret.

    July 20, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Change is needed for major titles

    HOYLAKE, England — This is a good time to be Bubba Watson — long off the tee which brings golf aficionados through the gates, two Masters titles which puts him in the pantheon of the greats at Augusta, deal-makers hovering about, more perks than a palace prince, exempt status to the end of the decade and a cash flow that resembles a raging river.

    July 19, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Harman is living his childhood golf dream

    HOYLAKE, England — One thing about golf that has remained constant since Young Tom Morris won his fourth Open in a row in 1872 — when Ulysses Grant was president of the United States and Brigham Young was arrested for bigamy (he had 25 wives) — is that a little man can play the game.
    Football players are becoming bigger — often illegally — and basketball players are growing taller, but a golfer can excel at any dimension if he hones his skills enough to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes. Golf is not a behemoth sport; there are no concussions, no strikeouts and no fistfights. Let the game prosper.

    July 18, 2014