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November 21, 2013

Roberson taking charge in early games

Before the 2013-14 season started for the Texas A&M basketball team, head coach Billy Kennedy laid out his expectations for center Kourtney Roberson in pretty simple terms.

"We need someone who can score around the basket. Kourtney's a guy who has more experience than anyone in the program, has a great understanding of how we want to play, and we need to get him to the free throw line more," Kennedy explained. "When he's in the lane, he's 6'9", you need to get fouled or score."

A few days later, Roberson walked off the practice court feeling woozy, and had a minor procedure to shock his heart back into rhythm. After some initial concerns about his availability, Roberson was in the starting lineup opening night and has taken his coach's mandate to heart, leading the team in scoring with 16.5 points a game (including a season-high 24 against Mississippi Valley State) and rebounds with 8.5 a game.

"In the post, it's just me and (freshman) Dylan (Johns) We've got to be more physical," he said. "We're going to be able to spread the floor out a lot, because we've got Jordan (Green), AC (Alex Caruso), Fabyion (Harris); we've got Devante (Fitzgerald), (Antwan) Space and Jamal (Jones). I can be able to work on the block now because it won't be all crowded."

The results, to this point, have been good: Roberson has hit nearly 76% (25-33) of his shots from the floor and leads the team with 22 free throw attempts (he's made 16 for a 72.7% percentage from the line). In addition, he's also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, easily the most on the team. His leadership, however, has had to extend to beyond the court with a very young team; as a redshirt junior, Roberson is the program's grizzled veteran and forces him to shed his quiet persona.

"It's kind of hard, but it's something I've got to do day by day," he said. "But I'm trying to be more vocal in everything, in weights, in practice, I'm just telling the young guys to slow down and be patient."

Even though the season is in its infancy, Roberson believes the team is far more talented the teams the Aggies put on the court the past couple of years.

"Every last one of the new guys are more athletic," he said. "They can defend, they can score, every last one of them can play."

Through the first four games of the season, the Aggies have held their opponents to an average of less than 64 points a game and a 36% shooting percentage from the floor. That's slightly higher than last year's totals (62.1 PPG, 33.5% shooting percentage), but Roberson believes this year's squad will be able to play tougher defense over the course of the season.

"It's a lot different, because last year we didn't have a lot of depth. This year, we've got a lot of depth; we can count on everybody to help out when it comes to defense," he said.

Even though the Aggies have eight new players on this year's team who weren't a part of 2012's squad that went 7-11 in conference, Roberson said that record still eats at the players who were on the court.

"We've watched a lot of film for games we didn't finish up last year," he said. "We watched those games and saw the mental mistakes and we're not going to make those again. That's what we've carried over from last year."

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