Well, at least there’s one New York City native who doesn’t think the Knicks hiring back Isiah Thomas is such a disaster.
Brooklyn’s Marvin Roberts, who was Thomas’ leading scorer at Florida International this past season, called his experience playing with the NBA Hall of Famer “special.”
“He does get a bad rap,” Roberts said Saturday after a streetball game at Hoops in the Sun in The Bronx. “Before I went there, I heard a couple of bad things about him. But I’m the type of person, I like to experience things on my own. I like to make my own mistakes and learn from them. And by going there and meeting him and playing for him, it was not a mistake. It’s probably one of the best things that has happened in my basketball career and my life.”
Roberts describes Thomas as “humble.” The 6-foot-5 rising senior swingman thinks that Knicks fans and pundits bash Thomas because they don’t know him.
“He’s always there [for his players],” said Roberts, who averaged 15.6 points per game last winter. “He talks to us all the time, teaches us new things. All he wants us to do is work hard, play hard on defense and win games. … He spends a lot of time with us in the gym. He gets shots up with us.”
Roberts says Thomas has taught him little tricks to scoring easier on offense and playing better defense. The former Detroit Pistons star has, of course, been vilified by Knicks fans for his horrid tenure as president and coach of the team. Not only was the team awful on the court, Thomas found himself embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal.
None of that mattered to Roberts, though. He led the NJCAA in scoring (29.6 points per game) in 2008-09 at Redlands (Okla.) Community College and had many suitors. He chose Florida International in part because of the presence of Thomas.
“It was a humbling experience to speak to him and be recruited by him,” Roberts said.
He has been known for deciding the unconventional. After playing for the freshman team at Holy Cross, Roberts left New York altogether to play at Milestone Prep in Raleigh, N.C. He was still a fixture in the summer playing with the Juice All-Stars AAU team, but he felt leaving the city was the right thing to do.
“I felt like going out of state would be better for me and my career,” Roberts said. “In the city there are a lot of ball players, a lot of good guys, good competition. I wanted to travel more, see things out of the city. I wanted to show my talents around the world.”
He’s found himself in lush Miami now playing for one of the best of all time.
Despite Thomas taking the job as a Knicks consultant, Roberts doesn’t think that means he’ll neglect his players at FIU. He owed the team’s poor season — the Panthers went 7-25 — to Thomas getting the job late and not being able to do enough recruiting.
“Besides the things you hear about him, he’s a real good guy,” Roberts said. “He knows how to separate his businesses. He’s a businessman.”