For any collegiate athlete, whether they are playing at a Division 1 school, or a community college, the road to the “next level” is always a rather bumpy ride.
In Oregon State senior shooting guard Roberto Nelson’s case, those bumps have come at a dime a dozen.
Going all the way back to his time with the AAU club team, the Compton Magic, Nelson learned how to be content playing the second fiddle, all the while waiting for his opportunity to be the one; question was, when would it actually be “his time?”
Nelson played behind the kid dubbed “The Next LeBron James” while with the Compton Magic (Demetrius Walker), was extended a scholarship by Craig Robinson at Oregon State even though the Tarver brothers (Josh and Seth), along with Jared Cunningham, all guards, were set to lead OSU for the foreseeable future, and even had to wait a year to take the court due to NCAA eligibility guidelines. Needless to say, patience has been a virtue that Nelson has learned to exhibit frequently.
So once he was finally able to take the court as a redshirt freshman for the Beavers, Nelson was ready to display the talents that had the likes of Kansas, and Kentucky, calling when he graduated high school. However, as mentioned above, he was a few rungs down on the priority list as far as scorers go, and was relegated to a bench role through his first two seasons with Oregon State.
Jared Cunningham, the one dubbed “Flight” because of his highflying play style, dominated the basketball headlines at Oregon State, and for good reason. Once he declared for the NBA Draft after his junior season in Corvallis, the stage was set for Nelson to be the alpha dog on the team and to show the NCAA that all of that hard work through the years wasn’t for naught.
Stepping out of the sixth man role and into a bona fide starting position, Nelson was thrust in to a leadership position during his junior season. He averaged nearly 18 points a game, which was good for 5th in the Pac-12 that year, and began showing everyone why he was such a highly touted recruit.
He could score at the rim, he could drain threes (sometimes with only one shoe), he could hit his free throws; Nelson’s well roundedness on the basketball court was no secret, he was just finally given an opportunity to display it.
After a less than ideal finish to the season for the Oregon State men’s basketball team, Nelson never really saw much of a national headline, even with his strong play, because Beaver basketball just wasn’t that newsworthy. And frankly, there were plenty of other people putting up 18 points a game across the country, so his play, as solid as it was, was nothing to write home, or the country, about.
As sure as the team was of Roberto’s scoring prowess, there were still question marks heading in to this year, and with other players blossoming in their own right (Devon Collier), Nelson’s relegation to second fiddle, yet again, could’ve been imminent.
Squash that notion, he did, as Roberto impressed, albeit in a heartbreaking loss, against Coppin State scoring a career high 36 points, on 12 made field goals, while also dishing three assists, grabbing four rebounds and recording two steals.
Nelson continued his strong play against the University of Portland (24 points), and against Maryland (31 points), where Oregon State got a much-needed big win. For Roberto, it seemed that it was all finally coming together, and that scoring mentality that all of the scouts knew he possessed while playing AAU, was finally showing himself.
Through 7 games on the year, and a 5-2 record for Oregon State, Nelson is averaging 24.7 points per game, which is good for 3rd in the NCAA, and first in the Pac-12. While the uptick in scoring could be attributed to taking more shots (he’s averaging 16 this year as opposed to 12 ½ last year), Nelson is converting at a higher rate, shooting nearly 50% on the year, to 44% from a year ago. He’s also getting his teammates involved more, averaging nearly two more assists per game than he did in the 2012-13 season, and in games where Nelson as 4, or more, assists, Oregon State is 5-0.
It’s finally all coming together for the senior out of Santa Barbara, California, and while it’s still very early in the season, Nelson should continue to thrive once Pac-12 play begins.
Last year, Nelson averaged 1.3 more points per game in Pac-12 games than non-conference games, which was good for 1st in the conference. If Nelson continues to show vast improvement, and progresses once Pac-12 play begins as he did a year ago, then Roberto will no doubt garner some national praise as one of the top scorers in the country.
With all of the work Roberto has put in throughout the years, and all of that “second fiddle” playing he’s done, don’t expect Nelson to squander the opportunity that’s being presented to him; it’s Roberto Nelson’s time to shine as a basketball player.