Isaiah Roby was the most highly-touted recruit of Tim Miles’ three-man freshman class, but a preseason injury set him back and he never quite found his stride this season at Nebraska. Even so, Roby flashed his immense potential often enough to inspire hope for a big sophomore season.
A stress fracture in his pelvis kept Roby out of action for several months leading up to the season, robbing him of the majority of preseason practices. He switched between the small and power forward positions for the Huskers and started four games in place of Ed Morrow Jr. (foot injury). He missed one game with an ankle injury but played in the other 30, logging as few as four minutes and as many as 29.
Miles never quite found a role for Roby offensively, and Roby struggled with the opportunities he did get. He cracked double figures just one time, scoring 10 points in Nebraska’s regular season finale against Michigan. He struggled mightily with his jumper, shooting just 4-of-20 from 3, and he was not a high-level finisher inside the arc either, converting just 44.6 percent of his 2-point shots. His efficiency did take a slight up-tick in conference play as he hit three of his nine 3-pointers and shot 47.6 percent on 2-pointers.
Per possession, Roby was the most turnover-prone player on the team as well with a 25.7 percent turnover rate. Roby struggled with help defense, often having his dribble stripped from guards digging in as he tried to make a move. Overall, Roby struggled with the speed of the game like many freshmen do.
However, his athletic gifts are apparent and he produced his share of highlight-reel plays this season. Roby threw down more than a couple high-flying dunks, and while he was loose with the ball he also showcased solid playmaking ability. The biggest highlight of Roby’s freshman season, however, was how disruptive he was able to be defensively. Roby led the Huskers with 3.2 blocks per 100 possessions and also chipped in 2.0 steals per 100 possessions. He was second behind Jordy Tshimanga in D-Rating and first in defensive box plus/minus. Roby’s length, athleticism and activity allowed him to make up for his lack of experience and be a force on the defensive end.
Best Performance: Roby scored eight points on 3-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line, grabbed six rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked a shot in 21 minutes in an 87-83 win at Indiana on Dec. 28.
The injury that Roby suffered even before he arrived in Nebraska turned his freshman season into something of a lost year. Roby showed little in the way of consistent progress and was more up-an-down than anything. That has to change next season. He should get a full offseason of development under his belt which could lead to a huge leap for the talented wing.
Roby played more at the four than he did at the three as a freshman, and with the lack of depth in the frontcourt he may be asked to do so again next season. It will be important for him to get in the weight room as some of his struggles to finish around the basket can be attributed in part to a lack of strength. He has to improve his jumper as well, but he did shoot 16-of-21 (76.2 percent) from the free-throw line which (small sample size granted) bodes well for his ability to stretch out his range down the line.
The most important thing for Roby is simply to play as much basketball as he can. The speed of the game is the biggest hurdle that he still needs to make it over in order to develop into a consistently productive player. As he gets his turnovers under control and starts to convert his scoring opportunities at a higher rate, Roby could turn into a difference-maker on both ends for Nebraska. The goal for next season should be to get Roby playing more than 20 minutes per game, and if he can earn that role I think the production will follow.