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Colorado standout Andre Roberson struggling with decision on turning pro

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Colorado coach Tad Boyle and forward Andre Roberson were supposed to have a press conference Friday morning at the Coors Events Center in Boulder to announce whether Roberson would be returning for his senior season or turning pro.

The press conference was canceled when Roberson still hadn't made up his mind late Thursday night after meeting with Boyle and his parents.

To some, Roberson's decision seems simple. He is viewed as a second-round pick in the June draft, the evaluation he received from the league said as much. So the conventional wisdom says he should return for his senior season and try to make improvements in his game to move into the first round a year from now.

The problem is, the 2014 draft is expected to be much deeper than the 2013 draft and it could be that much harder for Roberson to break into the first round in a year.

By returning to CU, he would be able to enjoy what many believe has the potential to be the best season in the program's history, and he could lead what appears to be the best team in the modern era of Colorado basketball.

With Roberson back, Boyle would have all five starters returning from his regular lineup at the end of the 2012-13 season. The program is also adding two talented redshirt freshmen and three solid recruits, giving Boyle more talent, length and athleticism than he has had with any of his three previous teams at Colorado. And Boyle has achieved impressive results with those previous teams, leading the Buffs to three straight 20-win seasons and three straight postseason appearances for the first time in school history.

Roberson, a versatile 6-foot-7 player who has been used to defend all five positions, has been a key part of those teams. He earned the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year award this season and finished second in the nation in rebounding. Those are the two areas of his game he knows he can count on at the next level.

If Roberson stays for his senior year, he would be on a team some have ranked in early preseason forecasts as high as No. 11 in the nation. He would become the winningest player in CU history and its all-time leader in rebounding with an opportunity to play in his third NCAA tournament.

He would basically finish his career as the new standard bearer for CU basketball, replacing Chauncey Billups.

The conflict in Roberson's mind is how he will be able to develop the parts of his game that need work if he stays at CU. Roberson is viewed as a second-round pick because he doesn't have good ball handling skills or a good perimeter jump shot. He scores most of his points in transition and off of offensive rebounds.

Boyle's first priority is winning games. So he isn't going to allow his best rebounder and defender to play exclusively on the perimeter to develop his game at the expense of the team. If Roberson wants to be able to play a role at CU more similar to the one he would be required to play as a pro, he would have to improve those parts of his game in the summer and fall and show Boyle he can be trusted to take and make good perimeter shots and handle the ball.

But if Roberson turns pro, there is no guarantee he will make an NBA team. He would need to impress a franchise enough through pre-draft individual workouts to get drafted and then prove he is worthy of a roster spot in the summer league and training camp.

If he falls short at any point in that process, he would likely end up making a relatively modest salary while trying to improve his game in the developmental league or overseas.

But pro coaches also want to win and earn better jobs, and, just like Boyle, they might be reluctant to use Roberson as a wing when he could best help them in other ways.

And oh by the way, there is always the risk of injury regardless of the path he chooses. A serious injury would complicate things even further for him regardless of the decision he makes, unless the most unlikely thing of all occurs, being drafted in the first round.

Roberson could wait until the absolute last minute Sunday to make his decision between becoming an icon at his school or becoming a professional with much to prove.

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