In Focus: Long After NBA Career, Roberts Graduates
The life of a student-athlete at LSU can be filled with many peaks and valleys.
Tiger scholars that have persevered through these obstacles will be honored all day on LSU's campus as thousands of students will participate in fall commencement ceremonies.
The path and challenges that one has to take and overcome to walk across that stage are unique.
Today for former LSU basketball great Stanley Roberts, his 20-year journey has come to a close.
"It was just another chapter of the saga of Stanley Roberts," Roberts said with a big smile on his face.
Roberts' basketball career began during the 1989-90 season under legendary coach Dale Brown. He teamed up with fellow seven-footer, Shaquille O'Neal, to form a dominating pair of Tiger twin towers.
LSU finished the 1989-90 campaign with a 23-9 overall record, including memorable victories over No. 5 UNLV, No. 20 Loyola Marymount and Texas.
"It was a great experience and just a remarkable era of basketball when I was at LSU," Roberts said.
After his freshman season, Roberts played professionally in Spain for Real Madrid. One year later, he was drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic.
Roberts' NBA career spanned throughout the next decade where he also suited up for Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.
However, as Roberts playing career was winding down, his future became uncertain. He turned to the people around him, including Coach Brown, for guidance.
Every time Roberts and Coach Brown spoke, the topic of coming back to LSU and finishing his degree was brought up.
In 2007, Roberts decided to do just that with the encouragement and full support of his former coach.
"At first, I was afraid," Roberts said. "Things have changed since the last time I was here. The first couple of years were very eye opening. It was a culture shock for me, but I got through it."
Roberts became a part of LSU's Degree Completion program, which is funded by the NCAA to help former student-athletes return to obtain college degrees. He also received assistance from Coach Brown's Foundation.
Roberts studied Sports Administration, and began adjusting to the new lifestyle of LSU.
Part of Roberts' course study enabled him to work under Ronnie Haliburton, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Grounds. He assisted in overseeing the student staffs which oversee operations for the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Just months before finishing his degree, Roberts suffered a setback. In August 2012, he began suffering from heart problems. Later that month, he underwent triple bypass surgery.
In addition, his son, Stanley Roberts Jr., collapsed from heart complications while playing basketball, just hours after he was released from the hospital.
It was then that Roberts began contemplating putting his goal of a college degree on hold. However, he was determined to finish what he had started.
"Everyone was telling me to take the semester off," Roberts said. "They told me to heal and not worry about school. I couldn't prolong it another semester. I just thought to myself I have to get this done."
Roberts continued studying and working at LSU, while caring for both himself and his son.
After four long months, Roberts finished his final two classes to complete his degree and become eligible for graduation.
This morning, Roberts will once again return to the Maddox Fieldhouse. However on this day, he will not be working behind the scenes. His hard work and fortitude will be showcased as he receives his degree in Sport Administration.
"I want to congratulate Stanley Roberts on his graduation from LSU,"LSU men's basketball coach Johnny Jones, who was an assistant coach when Roberts played, said. "His perseverance and his commitment to coming back to school say volumes about the type of individual Stanley is. All of us in the LSU basketball family, past and present, are excited for him to walk across the stage and receive his diploma. What a great accomplishment!"
"I would like to say congratulations to Stanley on his graduation from LSU," said Assistant Director of Academic Affairs Ericka Lavender. "He has worked extremely hard day in and day out to complete his degree. I'm glad that our office was here to support him every step of the way and we wish him the best of luck moving forward.
In the next chapter of his life, Roberts hopes to stay involved with basketball through coaching or player development. He is extremely thankful for his time at LSU, and the people that helped him along the way.
"When I walk across that stage, it's going to be one of the highlights of my life," Roberts said. "I met a lot of people along this journey. They have been very supportive, and helped me through times when I didn't think I was going to be able to make it through."