By, Pete Janny, Sports Editor
Same city, new threads. That’s the life Josh Roberts is living after relocating from Queens to the Bronx this summer.
Roberts is one of the prized additions to the men’s bas- ketball team this season after spending three seasons at St. John’s. But regardless of which borough he’s playing in, Roberts is proud of his connection to New York City. It’s that positive aura that will endear himself to the Manhattan fan base.
Roberts’ family is from New York but he grew up in Alabama. His journey to playing college hoops in the Big Apple came by way of Montverde Academy, the prep school powerhouse that has produced a slew of NBA players from Joel Embiid to D’Angelo Russell to this year’s first overall pick Cade Cunningham.
Coming from a school with that basketball pedigree groomed Roberts for the next level at St. John’s. He appeared in three seasons for the Johnnies, and played under two coaches in Chris Mullin and incumbent Mike Anderson.
Despite not recruiting him, Anderson gave Roberts a fair share of chances to contribute but ultimately not enough to keep him around. Additionally, the arrival of Fordham transfer Joel Soriano made Roberts the odd man out in the rotation for St. John’s.
That’s where the Jaspers come into the picture. It’s no secret Steve Masiello has been increasingly active on the transfer market over the last two seasons after acquiring Ant Nelson and others in 2020. The Jaspers beat out teams like LSU, Central Florida, and South Florida among others for Roberts’ services, with the allure of New York City making the Jaspers stand out.
“He said he was gonna push me to get better every day and he has,” Roberts said of Masiello.
From Masiello’s standpoint, bringing Williams on board feels like a throwback. When Manhattan won back-to- back MAAC Championships in 2014 and 2015 under Masiello, Rhamel Brown and Ashton Pankey gave the Jaspers a deadly duo in the front court. This time around Roberts and Warren Willaims could be a modern-day version of that mismatch for opponents.
On paper, Roberts and Williams complement each other well. Williams is an adept finisher on offense but has had to work hard to improve his defense since debuting in 2018. Meanwhile Roberts needed a learning curve, too, but in his case offense was the weaker aspect.
“He’s [Masiello] going to help me offensively so I can be more of a threat,” Roberts said.
If last season was a sign of things to come, then the best of Williams and Roberts may still await. Each player excelled in multiple facets, such as shot-blocking and field goals percentage, with Williams leading the Jaspers and Roberts pacing St. John’s in the latter category last season. The possibilities in the front court should make every Jasper fan excited heading into the season.
“I think it’s gonna be unstoppable honestly because his work ethic is like mine,” Roberts said of the exciting tandem he and Williams look to create. “We both have a dog mentality so the workouts we have I push him but he always pushes me too.”
Going from the Big East to the MAAC should also give the experienced Roberts a leg up. While physical and intense in its own right, the MAAC how- ever is not known to be a league traditionally built on the success of post players, as opposed to the bigger conferences. Having two of them in the 6-foot-9 Roberts and 6-foot-9 Williams could make for a devastating combination for the Jaspers on any night.
The fresh start at Manhattan is unfinished business for Roberts in many ways. Considering both St. John’s and Manhattan’s struggles for much of the last half decade, the same individual and team goals left unchecked at St. John’s for Roberts will now be applied to his new situation in Manhattan. Him and his new teammates are intent on doing what it takes to bring winning basketball back to Draddy like old times.
“We came here to be great individuals and to also be a great team so we talk about it frequently,” Roberts said.
Roberts and Marquette transfer Jose Perez expect to have plenty to say about the future direction of Manhattan basketball. However, it will be a long grind back to the top if they can indeed pull it off.
“We can never forget the mission of what we all came here to do.”