When Jeff Roberson committed to Vanderbilt in March 2014, I remember being excited in part because Roberson played high school ball about a mile from my house. I hadn't seen him play, but while most recruiting services had him listed as a low three-star recruit, with other offers from schools like St. Louis, Rice, and Harvard (i.e. not big-time programs), on film he looked like the kind of player who could develop into a good role player.
Today, our player-by-player look at Vanderbilt basketball will go with the freshman who came in with the least expectations of the five. The bad news for Roberson is that with Joseph Toye coming in next season, he'll have to fight hard to keep his place on the rotation. But the good news is that this year suggested that he can do that, and possibly more.
Preseason expectations: Personally, I didn't have any, as I figured Roberson was going to be little more than depth as a freshman. Some disagreed with me, although this had more to do with a lack of available players at his position, but even then the expectation wasn't that he would be much more than a role player.
2014-15 Stats: 19.3 mpg, 4.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 48.5% FG
2014-15 Comments: While Roberson proved to be somewhat unpolished on the offensive end -- particularly his 62.5% performance from the free throw line -- he was also valuable as somebody who had enough length and athleticism to defend opposing wings in the SEC. That alone was enough to get him significant minutes while his offense was developing.
On the other hand, his lack of offensive polish, along with an ill-timed concussion in mid-February, caused him to concede his starting job and minutes to Matthew Fisher-Davis down the stretch. But Roberson returned to form in the NIT, averaging 7 ppg in Vanderbilt's three-game run to the quarterfinals.
Did Jeff underperform, meet expectations, or exceed expectations? We'll say he met expectations. With freshmen, there's almost always going to be some debate over what exactly the expectations are. You could argue that he exceeded expectations if you're in agreement that his expectations were so low that merely cracking the rotation constitutes exceeding expectations.
At the same time, you could also argue accurately that Jeff was the only true small forward on the roster and thus was going to get playing time by default, with the guards on the roster either being too short or too skinny (looking at you, MFD) to defend opposing threes on a regular basis. In that light, we can say that Jeff met expectations. As a freshman, he was a valuable role player but not a star.
2015-16 expectations: That all depends on how much Jeff's offensive game develops over the summer. With Joseph Toye coming in, he'll no longer be the only player on the roster at his position, and Fisher-Davis could also put on weight in the offseason and be less of a liability when assigned to defend opposing threes. Basically, Jeff will need to work to keep his spot in the rotation, but it's hard to argue that this is a bad thing -- in 2015-16, Vanderbilt will have a better player manning this position, whether it's Joseph Toye or an improved Jeff Roberson.