The NBA Combine may be in the rearview window, but Nebraska junior and NBA hopeful Isaiah Roby doesn’t have any time to stop and catch his breath. He’s already off to start his next round of pre-draft workouts.
The Combine, which ran though much of last week in Chicago, was a big opportunity for players like Roby seeking to impress NBA decision-makers and move their way up the draft boards.
Roby was one of 66 players who received and accepted initial invitations to the Combine, while 11 others earned their way in with strong showings at the G League Elite Camp.
“Monday, Tuesday we were just getting there,” Roby told Hail Varsity about the Combine schedule. “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday were all interviews with the teams and also Thursday is when you started playing. They had us pretty much scheduled out most days, 8, 9 a.m. until night time we had meetings. It was a long week for sure.”
Roby went through measurements and athletic testing on Thursday and also participated in a five-on-five scrimmage. He tested well for the most part, but there was one area in which he was disappointed in his results.
“My [max] vertical was really low,” Roby said. “I did four workouts before the combine; I think my lowest vertical when I was visiting teams was 40, it was ranging between 40 and 41. My standing vertical at the combine was good but my max vertical was like 35 or something like that. I was disappointed in that. All the other tests I tested well but even those numbers are still low. At the end of the day, everywhere you go when you work out for a team you’re going to test again and all my testing numbers are better than that, so it didn’t really bother me too much.”
Roby’s standing vertical of 32.5 inches was among the top 10 at the Combine, but his max vertical (allowing a running start) was only three inches higher at 35.5 inches, 30th among all players.
“It was weird,” Roby said. “We played, we took a break for media, we sat for about 30 minutes, then we went to test. I don’t know. Just wasn’t in the best shape for it, I guess. But I’m not too worried about it because every time I got to visit a team I’ll be able to show them.”
Roby was able to show off his hops during the scrimmages — one on Thursday and on on Friday — with a few high-flying dunks. More and more players — even fringe prospects — are choosing to sit out the scrimmage portion, but not Roby.
“That’s something that I was excited about,” Roby said. “When I got the invite that was the first thing I thought about, really. All the guys that didn’t play were advised to by their agents and their inner circle; I guess that’s playing it safe. But at the same time, I wanted to go there and compete. There was no way I was going to sit out. I’m in a situation where I have to go out there and prove something.”
Roby had an up-and-down couple of days, but overall showed well for himself. The combine scrimmages are far from an ideal setting and Roby’s team in particular seemed to lack chemistry, going 0-2 with two big losses.
“It’s really tough,” Roby said. “First time we’re in the gym and all the eyes of the NBA are on us. Playing with our college teams with that much pressure was already kind of nerve-wracking, now you’ve got a brand new team, a coaching staff you hadn’t really worked with before. We ran through the plays — we had a couple basic sets we ran through for 30 minutes. And then obviously everybody is trying to show what they can do and trying to show that they know how to play at the same time. So it’s tough; it’s a really weird situation. My team, we started going ISO-ball and the ball stopped moving. It’s definitely tough.”
While Roby was going through the combine, he had a couple of guys on the sideline cheering him on — Nebraska’s former and current head coaches, Tim Miles and Fred Hoiberg.
“That was awesome,” Roby said. “They both had reached out before the combine and said they wanted to come up and support. I know Coach Hoiberg’s daughter was graduating this weekend so it was cool that he actually got to make it out for a day. Obviously, Coach Miles has done a lot for me; he even asked — ‘If it’s all right with you, I want to come out there; I don’t want to step on Hoiberg’s toes.’ It was good to see they both have mutual respect for each other. I was actually walking with Coach Miles and we bumped into Hoiberg while we were walking and talking. They started cracking jokes to each other, so nothing but respect to them from each other. It was special to have both of them up there.”
During the interview portion of the combine, Roby met with the Miami Heat, the Houston Rockets, the Golden State Warriors, the Phoenix Suns, the Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz. Roby said the feedback he’s received has been encouraging.
“The general theme was that I belong in the league,” Roby said. “Most teams, especially teams that saw me a lot this year — like Golden State came to a lot of my games — they want me to be more consistent, they want me to have good games all the time and not have a 25-point game then a two-point game. That was their main thing. They kind of asked me why that is, what is different between when I had those good games and when I had those bad games. If I knew I would have all good games; I’m trying to figure that out as well. I’m just trying to get that mindset of coming in every day and being aggressive. The feedback was, overall, pretty good. Teams were excited about me and every team I went to they said, ‘You definitely have NBA talent; you’re an NBA talent without a doubt; it’s all about putting it together for you.”
Roby said he went into the process expecting some off-the-wall questions but didn’t get any. He did get the popular question about inviting any three people from history to lunch. His answer: Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan (from his hometown of Dixon, Illinois) and Michael Jackson.
Prior to the combine, Roby had workouts with the San Antonio Spurs, the Chicago Bulls, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Bucks. On Wednesday, he will work out for the Sacramento Kings before returning to participate at the pro day his agency is holding later int he week. Next week he will fly back out west to work out for the Golden state Warriors. Roby said he might try to fit one more workout in before the NCAA withdrawal deadline of May 29, though he doesn’t have anything set yet.
Roby said he hasn’t decided on a timeline for his decision; he hasn’t spent too much time thinking about it as he navigates the pre-draft process. Roby said it’s looking like it will be closer to deadline day than not at this point.
If he does decide to remain in the draft, what would a team that drafts him be getting?
“The main thing I’ve been telling these teams and the thing they’ve been most excited about with me is my versatility,” Roby said. “I’m a versatile guy. I see myself playing a role like a lot of guys that are playing in the playoffs right now like Draymond Green, Pascal Siakam. I think I can affect the game the way they do, defensively, offensively, making the right plays and then my versatility and athleticism.”
As for the Huskers, Roby sees alright future for the program, with or without him.
“I’m excited,” Roby said. “I think when they hired Coach Hoiberg, that definitely was something that was a positive for my decision, I guess. When I was looking at deciding on whether to come back or not, Hoiberg obviously played in the league, coached in the league, front office in the league, so he knows what it takes to get there and he knows people there and he’s actually helped me a lot. Plus obviously, he’s a great recruiter. I think he got like a whole starting five in one day last week or something and he’s bringing in good talent. I’m excited for the direction he’s going to take the program. He's always said that Miles improved the program and left it in a better place and I think that Hoiberg’s going to do that too.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.