The next phase of Isaiah Roby’s basketball journey is about to begin, and he hopes it will be on the grandest stage of all.
One week from today, Roby will be among the players hoping to hear their names called when the NBA Draft is held at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. Roby, a 2016 Dixon High School graduate, announced on May 29 he would forego his last year of eligibility at Nebraska to make himself available for the NBA Draft.
He announced the decision via a Twitter message, in which he wrote, in part, “Playing in the NBA has always been my dream, and I feel this is the right time for me to pursue that.”
Since the Cornhuskers’ season ended on March 24 with an 88-72 loss to TCU in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, Roby has been busy. He finished up spring semester classes at Nebraska in late April, after being allowed to take his final exams early, and was on campus to see a coaching change at his school.
Tim Miles, who was in early on Roby during his days at Dixon, was fired on March 26 with 2 years left on his contract. He had been at Nebraska for seven seasons and went 116-114, but a disappointing 19-17 campaign in 2018-19 was his final undoing.
On March 30, Nebraska hired Fred Hoiberg as its head basketball coach. Hoiberg had a successful run at Iowa State before coaching the Chicago Bulls for three seasons. He also worked in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office before going to Iowa State.
The prospect of playing for a coach with NBA experience was tempting for Roby.
“I definitely looked into coming back,” said Roby, who is one semester shy of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business management. “Having a coach at Nebraska with NBA contacts like coach Hoiberg was a big plus. We met a couple of times and he said he’d love to have me back, but at the same time this was a life-changing decision and he would not stand in my way.
“A lot of the guys I played with either graduated or transferred, so I didn’t really know who I’d be playing with next season. I just decided it was time to go.”
The next step in Roby’s path to the NBA was participating in the NBA Draft Combine, held May 16-17 at Quest Multisport in Chicago. Sixty-six players, most of them from the college ranks, participated in two 5-on-5 scrimmages, as well as shooting, strength and agility drills under the watchful eyes of various NBA personnel.
“That was huge, getting an invite to the combine,” Roby said. “If I didn’t get the invite, I probably would have gone back to school.”
Roby was measured at 6 feet, 7 1/2 inches without shoes, and 6-9 with shoes. He tipped the scales at about 215 pounds. He was listed at 6-8, 230 on the Nebraska basketball website for the 2018-19 season.
Competing against elite college talent helped Roby realize he was ready to make jump to the next level.
“I was able to show I belong,” Roby said.
Roby has already gotten a taste of NBA life, at least from a travel standpoint, with visits to 11 NBA cities for workouts. On Wednesday, he was in San Antonio for his second visit with the Spurs. He was on his way to Philadelphia to work out for the 76ers today.
Roby previously worked out for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets. A second visit to Golden State is planned for next week.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Roby said, “and the bad thing is I’ve had a head cold for about the last 2 weeks. I haven’t been getting enough rest, I guess.”
Roby’s draft projection varies. According to nbadraftroom.com, he’ll be taken at No. 27 by the Nets, via a trade with the Nuggets. CBSSports.com has him going No. 31 to the Nets, while NBADraft.net has him being selected at No. 40 by the Kings.
Basketball Insiders ranks him as the No. 41 prospect overall.
First-round selections receive two-year guaranteed contracts, with team options for third and fourth years. The contracts for second-round picks are a bit murkier. Some get guaranteed money for a year or two, some not at all.
Roby is OK with whatever hand he’s dealt.
“Either way is going to be fine with me,” Roby said. “You’ve got to go in and work for your spot no matter where you go or where you’re picked. As long as I get a solid opportunity with a team, that’s all I can ask.”