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Isaiah Roby's journey from small town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal

Isaiah Roby's journey from small town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal

Watch I Am the Prospect: Isaiah Roby in full in the video player above. A five-part series, I Am the Prospect follows top basketball prospects in their journey to the 2019 NBA Draft.

One hundred miles west of Chicago sits Dixon, Illinois, a small city of around 15,000 not at all known for producing star basketball players. 

But for Nebraska forward and potential NBA Draft pick Isaiah Roby, it's home. 

"Small town kid, it's something that's always been a part of my identity," Roby told NBC Sports Washington for I Am the Prospect. "I have that underdog mentality and a chip on my shoulder of being from a small town. I have a lot of pride in that."

"I think I'm one of only two or three guys to play Division I basketball out of my town, and that's something I'm really proud of."

Roby's struggle against small town obscurity began at a young age, back when he was playing AAU ball. 

"It took a lot to get to this point for me, especially coming from a small town with not a lot of opportunities so it takes a lot of time and dedication, countless miles," he said. "I would drive 90 minutes roundtrip, or both ways, just for practice, AAU practice."

And in Roby's case, he wasn't the only one making those long trips and dedicating countless hours to furthering his basketball career. Roby credits his mother, Danielle, as a big reason why he's where he is now.

"She sacrificed a lot for me to be in the place I am today and she's my biggest motivator," he said. "She's the reason that I was able to play AAU basketball because those things aren't cheap. You know, traveling, paying for team fees, paying for hotel fees.

"My mom picked up multiple jobs at a time for me to be in those positions and in order for me to be where I am today."

Roby began to gain recognition in Dixon because of his skills on the basketball floor. So much so, his "stardom" affected his job. 

"Growing up, I worked at a restaurant in Dixon, 'world's tallest host' they were saying," Roby recalled. "First I was a host, and as I got better in basketball, people started to recognize me more. They had to move me to the back because it took too long for me to sit people at tables."

However, outside of his hometown, Roby was still relatively unknown. He only received one scholarship offer from a Divison I school, Nebraska, which like Dixon had little basketball history. 

But it was that chance to make some history which sold Roby on becoming a Cornhusker.

"Probably the biggest reason I ended up at Nebraska is because of the coaching staff and the facilities they have there," he said. "Coaches sold me on being a part of something new, trying to start something new at a university. Nebraska is not known for basketball, but they kind of sold me on being a special time in Nebraska basketball history, so that was something that I definitely wanted to be a part of."

During his sophomore and junior seasons in Lincoln, Roby helped the Cornhuskers earn back-to-back berths in the NIT, Nebraska's first postseason appearances since making the NCAA Tournament in 2014. 

In fact, Roby led Nebraska to its first postseason win since 2008, scoring a career-high 28 points in the Cornhuskers' 80-76 victory over Butler in the 2019 NIT first round. 

Now, he has his sights set on the NBA. Roby projects as a low first-round or second-round pick, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig ranking Roby No. 41 on his latest 2019 NBA Draft Big Board.

And after beating the odds to play for a Division I program, Roby believes he can do the same at the next level. 

"In every gym I go into I feel like I'm the best player, so I'm just trying to prove that to all these NBA teams," Roby said. "And at the end of the day, if I get a chance, I'm the type of player that's gonna work hard."

"I know I need to work on parts of my game and develop further, but I think down the line I'm going to be a starter in this league and a player that sticks around for multiple years."

Roby has aspirations to do good work off the court as well, remembering how others helped him and his family in times of need. 

"I grew up in a Habitat for Humanity home. My family did things like shop with a cop on Christmas. The local police department would come and give my family a turkey for Thanksgiving." 

"I've had all these opportunities for people to help me and my family out, so that's something I definitely want to be involved [with] in the NBA," he said. "Being a positive role model for kids in the community, these are all things I'm looking forward to doing for an NBA team."

And as potentially the first native of Dixon to make the NBA, Roby's journey can provide inspiration to anyone with dreams that may seem impossible. 

"I'm living proof that it's possible to come out of anywhere no matter what the situation," Roby said. "If you really, truly care about it enough, anything is possible."

I AM THE PROSPECT

 

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Report: NBA likely to use new All-Star format again, will discuss using it in G-League

Report: NBA likely to use new All-Star format again, will discuss using it in G-League

If you were a fan of the NBA's new format for the All-Star game, which featured a target score to decide the winner instead of a clock, you might be in luck. 

According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the NBA is likely to use the target score format again in next year's All-Star game. The NBA's president of league operations Byron Spruell told Lowe it's a 'good assumption' we see this format again. 

In its maiden voyage, the target score was a smashing success. The NBA has struggled to make the All-Star game entertaining and intense enough for the best players in the world to try. By adding 24 points onto the leading team's score at the end of the third and saying, "First one to this number wins," it sparked the competitive fire in the league's biggest stars and made for an unforgettable basketball moment. 

The target score is very similar to the "Elam Ending," created by Ball State University professor Nick Elam. The Basketball Tournament, a winner-take-all event held over the summer, has used the Elam Ending for the last two years.

Chris Paul suggested using the format in the All-Star game to commissioner Adam Silver, and now the target score ending has a chance at making it to the G-League. 

Lowe also includes in the story that the NBA will discuss using the target score system in the G-League, the league's developmental league. However, concerns about making G-League play too different from play in the NBA make it unlikely for a full adaptation of the target score system. 

Spruell did say a possible first step would be using the system at the annual G-League Showcase, which usually takes place in December. 

To go even further down the rabbit hole of hypothetical changes to NBA games, the NBA will also reportedly discuss using target scores in the elimination rounds of a midseason tournament. In late December, the NBA propose massive schedule changes to the league's owners including shortening the regular season to 78 games and introducing a midseason tournament. 

The owners still have to approve the changes before any target scoring system can be implemented. 

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Wizards congratulate Marcin Gortat on retirement with tribute video

Wizards congratulate Marcin Gortat on retirement with tribute video

Following Marcin Gortat's retirement from basketball, the Wizards and Capitals made sure to congratulate him on wrapping up a 12-year career. 

Gortat spent five seasons with the Wizards from 2013-2018, averaging 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds during his time in D.C. He was a reliable roll man f next to John Wall and helped lead the team to four straight playoff appearances. 

After spending a short time with the Clippers last season, The "Polish Hammer" decided to retire earlier this week. He did not play in the NBA this year. 

Could there be a Gortat appreciation night at Capital One Arena sometime soon? Wizards fans probably wouldn't oppose. 

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