Roberts erases doubts, shots
X-Factor returns in full force
Shaq is nation’s top shot-blocker
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- One of the most famous iconic phrases ever is the promise that “I’ll be back.” It speaks of a return, of hope, of unfinished business.
Shaquita Roberts, a six-foot basketball player for Southwestern Assemblies of God University, had her share of doubts she would return to her former self.
After a freshman year in which she helped lead the Lady Lions to their best ever season by blocking a shot in 29 of 31 games.
Roberts finished #2 in the nation in rejecting opponent’s shots with 99, averaging 3.2 swats per game.
“Baby Shaq,” as she was called, also scored 6.4 points per game while grabbing 7.3 rebounds in her first season of college basketball.
That was almost three years ago.
Since then her playing career has had as many ups and downs as a fiddler’s elbow.
Sharp pain in her lower leg led to various therapies, none successful until surgery last January. It cost her two seasons, one excused as a medical redshirt.
“I really did have some doubt,” she admitted in a recent interview. “I wondered if I would ever come back as normal. But prayer and faith helped me through the slump.”
Through nine games this new season the results have been marvelous! Shaq is not only back like a boomerang, but is better than before.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics website reveals that Roberts is leading the country in shot blocking with 42 denials. That’s 4.67 per contest. She is also credited with 11.2 rebounds per outing, which ranks her #11 in the country.
Three times she has deleted between seven and nine shots and has latched onto highs of 18 and 19 boards in two separate conference games. She’s back!
“Actually,” she says, “I feel 100% right now. It’s amazing. But it was far from easy. The hardest part of my therapy was learning how to walk and run again.”
Roberts’ surgery has given her a new lease on her basketball career. “It makes me feel like anything is possible. Being out for almost two years gives me even more a reason to come back stronger than before!”
As for her penchant for eliminating shots, she explained that it’s all about timing.
Contrary to those who assume that she was named after Shaquille O’Neal, who is also from her hometown of San Antonio, she makes it clear.
“I was not named after him,” she admitted. “In fact, I have never met him or seen him in person. Besides, my name is Shaquita and people just abbreviate it because it’s easier to say. I was named after my mother, Jacquita, which is similar.”
Her team, which has won between 23 and 25 games over the previous three campaigns, has a rebuilt backcourt. SAGU is currently 3-7 and will play the top two teams in the Red River Athletic Conference this week.
“We just need to do some adjusting to some different things. We’ll be fine,” stated a confident Roberts.
“These teams are pretty tough,” she said of Texas Wesleyan University (8-2, 3-1 in RRAC) and #7 ranked Langston University (11-0, 5-0 RRAC), whom the Lady Lions face on Thursday and Saturday. “It will definitely be a fight for us, coming back from the break and playing them back to back.”
“We have beaten them before and we can do it again. We all have to have a winning mentality when we step out the on the court,” she continued. The Lady Lions are the only team in the RRAC to defeat Langston twice in during the past five seasons. LU has won the conference each year while posting a 94-5 RRAC mark. Wesleyan went 28-6 last season, with Southwestern splitting the series.
“We are a brand new team,” Roberts pointed out. “We have new ways of doing things on the floor than we did before.”
“We just have to drastically cut down on our number of turnovers,” said the former standout at Byron Steele High School in Cibolo, a San Antonio suburb. “I also think that Nia (Winston) and Jirah (Rodriguez) could really turn our team around. I’m a big believer in the impact Okievia (Bratchett) can add.”
“We just need to have confidence in ourselves. That, and make our free throws.”
Combined with the outstanding play of senior forward Gabby Bruner, who rips down 8.3 boards per game, the last concern SAGU has is their frontcourt.
Or the return of Shaq.