David Cloninger

Lower Richland’s Stanley Roberts returns to SEC

Stanley Roberts
Stanley Roberts

It’s not regret. Stanley Roberts has made peace with the decisions he made.

So maybe call it a second thought?

“I’m actually kind of excited to see South Carolina, too … after they beat us,” said Roberts, a native of Hopkins and graduate of Lower Richland High. “Just saying, it kind of made me think, ‘Maybe I should have stayed at home.’ 

The “us” Roberts was referring to was LSU, the college he chose as a prep All-American in 1988. He was at the SEC tournament on Friday as part of the SEC’s “Legends” class, honored at halftime of the Tigers’ game against Tennessee.

He was thinking of sticking around for the Gamecocks’ game against Georgia later. Wearing a purple shirt with his black suit, he was pulling for the Tigers against the Volunteers. If LSU were to play the Gamecocks again, after USC beat the Tigers earlier this year, who would he pull for?

Well, again, he’s at peace with his decisions.

“Mom’s still in Columbia,” said Roberts, who’s in human resources for Baton Rouge’s Chicago Bridge and Iron. “I haven’t been back for six months. I need to get back there soon, because I miss home.”

Roberts quickly left Columbia after graduating high school, USC a consideration for college but unable to beat out LSU. “South Carolina was still in the Metro Conference and I just had to go for the bigger school at the time,” he said.

At LSU he joined a stellar team, led by budding superstar Chris Jackson and welcoming a raw but awesomely talented rookie named Shaquille O’Neal the next year. Ineligible to play as a freshman due to academics, Roberts played as a sophomore and taught O’Neal how to play like a true big man.

At 7 feet and nearly 300 pounds, Roberts could dunk and shoot mid-range jumpers over O’Neal in practice. O’Neal credited Roberts for teaching him the ins and outs of the game, but O’Neal went on to a Hall of Fame career while Roberts never lived up to his massive potential.

More academic problems, injuries and drugs squandered his career, Roberts losing all of the estimated $30 million he earned in the NBA. But Roberts picked himself up, overcoming heart trouble and a learning disability to return to LSU and graduate.

The news that he was LSU’s legend was surprising but pleasant. Always ready with a laugh and smile – despite his troubled past, nobody ever has a bad word to say about him – Roberts cheerfully accepted.

“When they called and told me, I said, ‘Y’all sure y’all got the right person? You do know I only played one year, right?,’ ” Roberts said. “And ‘Legend’ – that means I’m getting old. I think I’m still young.”

If he was younger, perhaps he’d do it all over again.

In a different uniform.

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