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Sunday, June 6, 2010

KU adds pair of basketball walk-ons in Wesley, Roberts

Brother of former KU player Keith Langford, son of former KU assistant Norm Roberts join program

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Niko Roberts

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Justin Wesley

Two guys with family ties to Kansas University have joined the Jayhawk basketball team as walk-ons.

They are: Justin Wesley, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound sophomore transfer from Lamar University who is the brother of former KU standout Keith Langford; and Niko Roberts, a 5-10, 175-pound freshman guard out of St. Anthony’s High in Long Island, N.Y., the son of former KU assistant coach Norm Roberts.

“When Keith was here, I always used to come to the games. I can’t even tell you how many, but I went to a lot,” Fort Worth, Texas, native Wesley said Sunday at Bill Self’s basketball camp. “I used to love coming here. Once Keith graduated and time went on, I started to miss it. Being here is awesome — a great feeling.”

Langford, KU’s seventh-leading scorer of all-time, last played for the Jayhawks in 2004-05. He’s currently playing professionally in Russia.

“When Keith played in the Final Four against Syracuse, I was there,” Wesley said of 2003 in New Orleans.

“When he played in the Final Four against Maryland, I was there,” he added of 2002 in Atlanta.

“At Lamar, I still kept up with their games. I watched them play to make sure they were still doing OK.”

Wesley said, “Lamar was OK,” but he felt a desire to attend school in Lawrence, and he let Keith know of his interest. Langford has remained close with KU’s Bill Self, who said Wesley would be welcome as a walk-on.

“Keith said he’s very happy for me. He said he’s very proud of me, coming here to his alma mater,” Wesley said. “He said he can’t wait to get up here and see how I fit in.

“It’s some pretty big shoes to fill. I’ve always looked up to him. When I was young, he was the father-figure in the house. To play at the same school he did ... it’s an honor.”

Wesley, who shoots right handed — Keith is a lefty — averaged 1.2 points and 1.3 rebounds a game while playing in 23 games (two starts) at Lamar. He hit six of 24 shots, including one of five three-pointers. He averaged 9.0 points and 6.6 rebounds a game his senior year at North Crowley High in Texas. He hit 53.5 percent of his shots his senior year and earned district defensive-player-of-the-year honors while receiving recruiting interest from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulane.

“Justin played at Lamar last year. We’ve known Justin a long time because he’s Keith’s brother,” Self said. “Keith was one of the school’s all-time greats. Justin is a really good athlete, has a lot of bounce. Keith and his mother have allowed him to live out his dream by playing here at Kansas.”

One of Self’s best buddies is Norm Roberts, who assisted Self at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and Self’s first year at KU. He was Self’s associate head coach his last two seasons before leaving in 2005 to become the head coach at Saint John’s. St. John’s fired him after this past season.

“I have known Niko for almost all his life. Cindy (Self’s wife) and I have known Norm and Pascale (Niko’s mom) for the past 16 years or so,” Self said. “We’re excited about having Niko. He had a good high school career. He loved KU when they lived here before.”

Niko, who averaged 15.0 points and 5.0 assists last season at St. Anthony’s, never has forgotten his one year in Lawrence, when he attended Langston Hughes Elementary.

“I’m extremely excited. I’m anxious to get started and a little nervous,” Niko Roberts said Sunday before boarding a flight from New York to Lawrence.

Whe did he fall in love with KU?

“Pretty much from the day my dad got there,” he said. “I was in town one day and loved it. I told my parents it’s a place I’d love to go to school one day.

“It’s a huge honor to go to KU. My goal is to help the team any way I can, work as hard as I can in practice and give 100 percent every day.”

Norm Roberts said in a phone interview that his son often hung around KU’s players during his year in Lawrence.

“He was part of everything going on,” Norm said. “And he’s been around coach Self for a long time. My wife and I are really proud of him. He’s going to KU for physical therapy. Obviously, Kansas is one of the best schools in the nation in that particular field. He considered VCU and East Carolina. He was accepted at a number of places. He’s really strong academically. With the opportunity to attend one of the best schools for physical therapy and the opportunity to play at KU, I don’t think it was a tough decision. He’s really excited about the opportunity.”

Niko will room with incoming KU freshman Royce Woolridge, while Wesley will be a roommate of fellow Texan Chase Buford. KU now has six walk-ons on the roster: They are: Wesley, Roberts, Buford, Jordan Juenemann, C.J. Henry and Conner Teahan.

Norm Roberts said he plans to do some TV work next season.

“I had some opportunities in coaching,” Norm said, “but they didn’t fit right now. I’m hoping to do some TV work and consider possible coaching opportunities in the future.”

Comments

rockchalkAZ 9 years, 8 months ago

seems like wesley will be able to provide some height and skills in the practice gym to help everyone improve. but roberts? 5'10" 175 doesn't seem like it'll do anything but be a useless body in the gym. i believe the word to describe him would be nepotism

Funhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Beware of little guys. They'll gitcha!

Ken Sedgwick 9 years, 8 months ago

" doesnt seem like itll do anything but be useless body in the gym " Useless comment!

Clarence Haynes 9 years, 8 months ago

rockchalkAZ........Unless you have seen him play, don't prejudge Roberts.

Clarence Haynes 9 years, 8 months ago

rockchalkAZ........Unless you have seen him play, don't prejudge Roberts.

SoCalAlum 9 years, 8 months ago

Not nepotism - professional courtesy...you have to feel for Norm Roberts losing his job, likely his son would've walked on at St John's had Norm been kept on. Credit to Coach Self. Wasn't Bob Frederick's son a walk-on at UNC? And...this past season, one of Coach Wooden's great-grandson's was a walk-on at UCLA...from what I read, he was the hardest working kid in the gym. If nothing else, this will buy Niko Roberts time to bulk up some and compete against the best guards in the country and then find a program he can get PT.

tophawk1983 9 years, 8 months ago

I may be wrong but it seems like Frederick's son was a walk-on at K-State.

SoCalAlum 9 years, 8 months ago

Brad Frederick was on UNC team 96-99 seasons (see statsheet.com)

Mark Kelly 9 years, 8 months ago

Frederick's younger son, Mark, walked on at K-State

sdoyel 9 years, 8 months ago

Never count out a PG like him, especially the son of a coach. He'll be fundamentally sound. Wouldn't be surprised if he has more than a handful of great moments while at KU. Wesley, nothing more than a practice big guy.

AsadZ 9 years, 8 months ago

rockchalkAZ: Admire the kid for living up his dream and becoming a jayhawk player.

DevilHawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Welcome to both.

Hope they can contribute a lot.

Matt Bowers 9 years, 8 months ago

SoCalAlum, wasn't Roy Williams kid a walk on at UNC while he was coaching at KU? I credit HCBS as well on this, I love success stories. HCBS wouldn't just anyone on floor, not even the practice floor, unless they were legit. Everyone who knows a little about college basketball knows it.

On an off topic, but positive one. I'm grading AP papers in Louisville, KY and have met this UK dude who is totally worried about losing his coach and some recruits because the Cavaliers job is open! Don't worry KU fans, I told him he had a lot to worry about!!! Also met a ton of people sporting KU gear, even downtown, and they aren't here to grade papers. Got to love KU.

Rock Chalk

SoCalAlum 9 years, 8 months ago

You're absolutely correct - Scott Williams was on UNC team for 97-98 and 98-99 seasons. As noted above, he overlapped with Brad Frederick.

gchawk 9 years, 8 months ago

rockchalkAz. With your ignorant comment "a useless body in the gym", please tell me you're not actually a KU fan. I realize we're entitled to free speech, but for the life of me I can't see any reason for such a comment. If this young man is willing to go out there and work his tail off in order to try and help the team, and all the while knowing he'll probably not get to play much, if any, then this deserves a pat on the back, not an insulting comment. Watch "Rudy" sometime.

rockchalkAZ 9 years, 8 months ago

well said gchawk. you know what you're talkin about

Kevin Studer 9 years, 8 months ago

Dude. They are walk-ons. It is great when kids with any pedigree at all are willing to walk on. This is a good thing. So what if they are probably not ever going to be stars? Good for both of them!

Dennis Mahorney 9 years, 8 months ago

Those kids are living the dream....I would have loved to found myself a part of KU somehow with my very limited skills. These guys found a way. Gotta love that. They are part of KU forever. Way to go and get what you want.

rockchalkAZ 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Mike Kendall 9 years, 8 months ago

Does it seem like to me that players are just coming out of the woodwork to play for the Jayhawks and Bill Self? I think it is a fantastic situation! Self is incredible.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 8 months ago

What about Juenemann? Wasn't he a walk-on? How many walk-ons can there be each year?

DevilHawk 9 years, 8 months ago

If players are capable or have a basketball heritage, then they will probably have an opportunity to walk on - pending their ability. However, most quality players are likely to go where they have a full scholarship available rather than walk-on at KU.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 8 months ago

My answer is not exactly there from the revision to the original story. But, it seems that even though these guys are paying their own way through college, KU pays their travel and other related expenses through the regular and post-season while very little chance of but 1 or 2 who may even see a minute of play on the road. Am I the only one who thinks about the botton line financial burden-wise of this and the implications? We will have the equivalent of 3 complete rotations between the scholi's and the walk-ons! Don't get me wrong, what a coup this is as well as a benefit for practices. But, it seems like the timing is a little bizzare with all of the scrutiny, fiscally.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 8 months ago

If I recall correctly, there is a limit to the number of walk-ons who get to travel with the team. If there are more than that on the roster, they have some sort of rotating system so that through the season all of them get to go to away games.

TxJyHwk 9 years, 8 months ago

You recall correctly. Only 15 players can travel, but you can have as many walk-ons as you like.

In the passt, Bill Self traveled with all of the scholarship players (incuding red-shrits) and rotates the walk-ons.

Scott MacWilliams 9 years, 8 months ago

Hey Welcome aboard guys!

I love walk-ons! And walkons with KU legacies? Wow! They are getting the chance to practice and maybe play in the greatest place for college hoops in the world! Anyone who wants to dump on them must be just jealous, that's all.

These guys get to wear the colors, have a chance to run out on that hallowed floor, in front of 16000+ Jayhawk fans, and give it their all.

How many of you would give how much to take their place???

I was there, I think it was Valentine's Day, 1996, when KU was playing CU and TJ Whatley was the fave of the walkons. The starters were stinking it up in the first half, letting CU make a close game of it. The fans were getting pretty mad, as was Roy. With about two minutes left in the half, Roy called on TJ. You should have heard AFH explode with cheers. It was absolutely incredible. Whatley came in made a steal and scored. Talk about decibels!!

That's living the dream, folks. You can't buy a moment like for all the $$$ in the world.

ROCK CHALK, WALK ONS!!!

jaybate 9 years, 8 months ago

Justin Wesley is 6'8" and he scores 1.3ppg for Lamar?

Lamar must be very tough. :-)

Keith and Self must also be very close.

Seriously, though, tall walk-ons are rare and great for practice. It is very tough to really rough up a guy day after tday that you are going to have to play with and split time with. I always felt part of what was missing from last year's team was Big Red. Real size helps in scout squads. And if Justin can Hudyize up to 225, then he will be a good XTReme dance partner for practices.

A few board rats dissed on Niko, because he is small and slight. I actually think he's a good add, if he's quick. As we Hudy-ize our points and combos up to 200 plus, it is crucial to have a few skinny jitter bugs to keep the XTReme combos used to playing little jitter bugs. from time to time. Every year, KU runs into a couple teams with mini-me guards and Niko can do a good emulation of those in practice.

The problem with, say, Buford, is that he emulates nothing our players will see, except maybe their future NBA GMs. :-)

I'm still hoping Jordan Jueneman bulks up another 15, or 20, pounds, so that he can really begin to bust our perimeter players in the chops and get them ready for the kind of action they are going to get in February and March.

youowethehawks 9 years, 8 months ago

JJ with another 15-20 lbs??? Holy Schnikeys! Paint the kid green and call him Lou Ferrigno, why don't cha!? I trust you'll loan him your ripped-off jean shorts...

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 8 months ago

Isn't St. Anthony's where Tyshawn went to high school with Bobby Hurley as his coach? If so, we know we're getting a tough little guy with Niko. With red-shirts, injuries, etc, we just might get to see him be offered a scholarship one year and become an option off the bench when Selby has moved on.

JacquesMerde 9 years, 8 months ago

Maybe Norm Roberts will come back. He would help, and maybe his son will. Why not add these players instead of having open slots?

NotWiller 9 years, 8 months ago

I'm surprised no one's reminded rockchalkAZ of what Bruce Pearl's son (a coach's son walk-on onto his own father's team) did to us a few months back. Anyone who's ever seen a show like that, or ever watched how excited our starters get when Connor and crew hit a shot while cleaning up would know that the walk-ons do a lot for us.

quigley 9 years, 8 months ago

T.J. Whatley.....best walk-on ever. And I am not just talking about KU, I mean best EVER.

kvskubball 9 years, 8 months ago

I think I remember a guy who walked on at KU who was better than Whatley...

Can I remember his name? (Gee remembering walk-ons is tough)....

I think his first name was something like Christian......

The last name escaped me for a couple of minutes...oh yeah...It was Moody....

Now, I don't know about ALL of the walkons for ALL-TIME, but for my money, this guy Christian Moody was the best walk-on at KU in my life-time...I think he actually was given a schollie, he was that good!

And I think he went on to be a doctor...must have used his time wisely....

Joel Hood 9 years, 8 months ago

hey quigley - I'd change that to, "the best KU basketball walk-on with a 1970's porn-mustache."

(just a joke - I got nothing but respect for any KU walk-on - a lot of work for the love of the game and KU.)

Jared Grillot 9 years, 8 months ago

No... you're right... total porn-stache... but man, did we love him

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 8 months ago

I still have an image of Selby puking into a trash can next to a walk-on during the first two or three days of HCBS's "boot camp". Now the list of walk-ons can include these newbies. Only thing is, Niko won't have to bend over as far as Justin.

kerbyd 9 years, 8 months ago

I believe Niko went to school in N.Y. not N.J.

Jared Grillot 9 years, 8 months ago

A little Super Keith? I'm in. Will they let him wear #5? You know, like a family tradition? Seriously though, KU fans have always treated walk-ons with a lot of class and respect, and I'm sure these guys will get some love too. Anyone who ever heard AFH thundering "We want Whatley!" knows this, or witnessed the time Roy got ticked and benched all 5 starters for the bottom half of the bench during the 1st half of the game, or any of the various times when we were beating some poor school so bad and went nuts because the last guy on the roster put in a free throw or a hard layup that filled the last spot in the box score. We love walk-ons. RCJH

mr_jhawk4477 9 years, 8 months ago

I love this. I remember back during Roy's time we always had quite a few walk-ons and I was disappointed in the lack of them in the Self era. These guys will bust their butts in practice and are going to be living their dream. I'm sure they will definitely be fan favorites with one of them being Keith's brother and the other being a 5'10 sparkplug (little guys always seem to be crowd favorites). It will be fun to watch these guys

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