Lee Roberts has been a professional ball player since he graduated from Findlay University in 2009. He has played in countries all over the globe including: Germany, Australia, Venezuela, and Argentina. His 4 years at Findlay University set the stage for his success as a professional, where he learned the value of hard work, consistency, and teamwork.
His team lost only 12 games in 4 years at Findley and Lee’s senior season ended the way all athletes dream of finishing their careers. The Oilers finished the season 36-0 en route to winning the NCAA II national championship. Lee currently plays for Olimpico LB, one of the top teams in Argentina. He sat down with us to discuss life, hoops, and his journey as a professional.
Lee, thanks for taking a few minutes to hang out with Arete Hoops today, I think people will really appreciate hearing about your journey. To start off tell us a little bit about where you grew up and how you ended up playing basketball for Findlay U.
Well it’s always funny answering this question, both of my parents were in the army. I was born in Seattle but was only there until I was 7 and then we moved to Alaska. We were there for about 2 and half years and until we moved to Cleveland, Ohio. I was in Cleveland for middle school and high school.
I went to Midpark High School right outside of Cleveland, we had one of the best classes to ever go through that school for basketball. That’s where I got my recognition from Findlay.
Got ya. Did you know all along that you wanted to play ball in college or what was the recruiting process like for you?
I was actually recruited for high jump, I was waiting for a couple of schools to ask about basketball and then Findlay offered me a full scholarship. I went to visit them and I was sold.
How did you deal with the transition from high school ball to college? What areas of your game/approach to the game changed during your 4 years?
Well I had a great coach to start with. And my team was all about winning so I had some great examples to look up too. There was a lot of pressure to be good and it took work to get up to speed in the system.
I think that my aggressiveness and tenacity is what changed the most and the guys on my team in college changed the way I looked at basketball. I think it became a hunger then.
Sounds like you had special team culture, what were some characteristics of that team that set you guys apart?
It’s hard to describe, we knew each other in and out, on and off the court, and we held each other responsible in the same regard. There were 6 freshmen that came in my year, one redshirted so there were 5 that were seniors that stayed together through the 4 years.
It was like a family, we only lost 12 games over 4 years.
That’s incredible. So after having such a great college experience was the choice to play professionally an easy decision?
Well I wanted to play but it wasn’t easy to get a first job.
I’ve been there…
When I was looking for a job, a coach told me that you have to act like a professional before you become one. Can you relate to that advice? What was your first pro job like?
Well it’s a little bit of a longer story; I signed with an agent from Germany which was the first call I got. It was a Wednesday, he asked if I could be in France in Friday. Of course I got right to it and was there on Saturday because of some passport issues. I got to the team and the first thing the coach said it’s you aren’t 6’10’’!
After about 2 weeks I got cut and then went on a train with everything I owned to go to Germany to stay with my agent.
European coaches are paranoid about height…
The height thing is crazy in Europe.
I tried out for about 4 teams and money was always the issue. I landed at Bayern Munich for a month and then had an injury and was cut again after that.
Yeah it was bad.
I finally went to a 3rd league team in Braunschweig.
Well to start off in 3rd league Germany and end up in first league Argentina is a pretty significant accomplishment. What were the things that helped you make that jump?
God really, trusting that God would bless me. After my first year pro I went to live with a girlfriend and I worked landscaping in my college town. Motivation to make something of the talent I was gifted.
So I worked. Hard.
Any advice that you would give other aspiring players that has helped you along the way?
Everyone has their own path, but talk to God about it. That way you can’t go wrong. And really, hard work and dedication will always help you to be the best you can be.
I don’t want to sound cliché, but hard work pays off.