When prospective student-athletes look for a college, they often focus on where they can play immediately and make the biggest impact. However, management major and basketball player Isaiah Roby searched for place that could help him develop into the best player, student and overall person possible.
“When Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tim Miles and Assistant Coach Jim Molinari recruited me, they continuously told me about the resources Nebraska offers athletically, academically and socially,” said Roby. “With the training facilities in Lincoln to develop my body and skills combined with the opportunity to get a great business degree, I knew this would be the best place for me.”
In Roby, Miles and his staff saw a student-athlete with great potential. Stepping on campus at 6’8” and 190 pounds, Roby would struggle as a freshman against some of the top players in the Big Ten. He averaged just three points and three rebounds per game, but these experiences showed him how he needed to improve to help the team.
“One night after a tough game, Coach Miles showed me how much I helped the team on the defensive end because of the way I block and alter opponents’ shots. This helped me see my value on defense, but I had to work on rounding out the rest of my game.”
That summer Roby filled his schedule with weight lifting and on-court skill development while taking a summer class. In his down time, he focused on nutrition and in-taking enough calories, and he gained 30 pounds. As a 220-pound sophomore, he averaged nine points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots per game, helping the Huskers to 22 wins. Nebraska basketball had not won 22 games in a season since 1991.
“Isaiah’s enormous talent on the basketball floor is only matched by his compassion, kindness and care for others. He is the total package in what a coach looks for in a student-athlete,” Miles said. “The coolest thing for me is that he is the same person on and off the floor. That was something I noticed about him when we first started recruiting him at age 15 and it is still true today. That is a credit to not only Isaiah, but also his family."
Roby also made an impact in the classroom.
“Isaiah Roby made a lasting impression on me as an instructor because of his rapid growth as a student, athlete and a person,” said Dr. Elina Ibrayeva, associate professor of practice in management. “Academic standards at the College of Business are quite rigorous and Isaiah had to travel a lot. However, his exam scores did not drop, but significantly improved by the end of the class. He consistently gives his best effort to basketball and academics."
The sophomore's success led to NBA attention and he briefly considered leaving school to play professionally. While flattered, Roby decided he had more to do yet at Nebraska.
One thing he plans to accomplish is being named an Academic All-Big Ten honoree. He fell just short last year.
“As with any athlete, I want to play at the highest level possible. At the same time, one day that ball is going to stop bouncing and I promised my mom I would get my degree so I can be prepared once my basketball career ends. In the meantime, I am focused on doing anything it takes to help my team succeed and get to the NCAA Tournament. I know how much it means to the great alumni and fans of Nebraska,” he said.