LINCOLN — Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby wasn’t sure what he’d do.
He’d impressed scouts at the NBA combine, was climbing projections for next month’s NBA draft, getting all the help and encouragement he’d ever needed from new Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg. And still, on Tuesday afternoon, he was on the fence.
Roby met with his agent on Tuesday night, mulled it over, and on Wednesday around 1 p.m. decided, officially, to remain in the NBA draft. He announced the decision at 2 p.m. on Twitter.
“The whole process, I kinda just been increasing confidence,” Roby said. “I’ve always said if enough teams in a safe range, if they like me, that’ll be good. That range for me has been 25 to 45.”
Roby has a chance to become the first Husker drafted in 20 years. The last Husker selected was Venson Hamilton by the Houston Rockets in the 1999 draft. Roby said he doesn’t know the rules yet, so he declined to say what teams like him. But the list is long, he said.
From Dixon, Illinois, Roby played sparingly as a freshman but showed flashes of promise. His breakout season was in 2017-18, when he started 13 games, scoring 8.7 points with 6.3 rebounds. Roby shot 56.3% from the floor that year, helping Nebraska win 22 games.
As a junior, Roby started all 35 games, often playing the full 40 minutes if he wasn’t in foul trouble. His role expanded after forward Isaac Copeland went down with an injury. Roby extended his game beyond the 3-point line late in the season, and led Nebraska on a surprising run through the Big Ten tournament and the NIT. He had impressive performances late, including 23 points and eight rebounds in a comeback win over Iowa, and 28 points and eight rebounds against Butler in the NIT.
Roby finished with 11.8 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals as a junior.
“I’ve been an Isaiah Roby fan since he was 14 years old, when he looked like a overgrown puppy,” former coach Tim Miles said, reached by phone. “Everyone sees greatness and potential in him. And everyone sees such an emotional and good person. I’m just happy and proud for him.”
With his 6-foot-8 frame and potential to play anywhere on the floor, Roby is projected to be a mid-to-late second-round pick. He was invited to a handful of workouts with NBA teams prior to the NBA combine, three of whom — the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves — all have picks in the second round. Roby was one of 66 players invited to work out at the combine from May 15-17.
With his departure, Hoiberg now has 13 scholarship players. NU was over by one before Roby’s announcement.
Nebraska will now return just two players from last season’s roster — juniors Thorir Thorbjarnarson and Dachon Burke. Hoiberg added 11 players to the roster in a little more than a month, seven of whom are transfers.
With Roby officially gone, Hoiberg’s roster is finally set in stone. Nebraska will have plenty of options to replace Roby’s power forward spot. Matej Kavas is a 6-foot-8 3-point shooter, Kevin Cross a 6-foot-8, 240-pound freshman from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Yvan Ouedraogo is the 6-foot-9, 260-pound center from France.
Roby said it hasn’t quite hit him that he won’t be returning to campus soon for workouts, and won’t play at Pinnacle Bank Arena anymore. After Nebraska’s final two home games, against Iowa in the regular season finale and against Butler in the NIT, Roby said he told friends he was proud if those were his final moments in front of Husker fans.
“I think I left PBA the right way,” Roby said. “It’s all been a dream come true. I’ve talked to a lot of friends, it’s like, it’s surreal. You’re living your childhood dreams, and a lot of childhood dreams people don’t get to live. It probably won’t hit me until I get drafted. Just excited for it.”