Justin Roberts may be the leader Georgia State didn’t know they had

For Justin Roberts and the Georgia State men’s basketball team, the season filled with uncertainty seems to exemplify unity and growth. Roberts has posted double-digit figures in the scoring column in all but one contest through seven games this season.

The 6-foot guard out of Indianapolis made a statement in the season opener, dropping 26 points while shooting 45% from three against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Along with his team-highs of 26 points and six assists, the redshirt junior displayed tenacity on the boards, snatching eight rebounds. 

Roberts followed up his brilliant performance with a 23-point game against the Toccoa Falls Eagles, where he shot an astounding 90% (9-10) from the field and 83% (5-6) from three. He also dished out another half-dozen dimes without committing a single turnover.

With the Panthers starting the season 6-1, Roberts knows how the team can and will plan to continue their success thus far into the season.

“Just doing what we’ve been doing, get guys healthy, making sure we stay conditioned and don’t get too far ahead of ourselves, taking it one game at a time,” Roberts said.

Roberts posted his first double-double of the season against Carver College, scoring 14 points on an efficient 66% (6-9) shooting and, without giving the ball away, found the open teammate for ten assists. Roberts also scored 20 points for the third time this season against the College of Charleston Cougars on 70% (7-10) shooting from the field. 

An undersized guard, the 170-pound uses his quick first step to create space or penetrate the lane and find the open man for the easy bucket. Roberts showcases his IQ with his off the ball movements to find his spot on the floor and knock down easy shots.

“The strongest aspect of my game is my decision-making on the court,” Roberts said. “I make quick decisions and never try to think too much or get caught up in the motions of the game.”

An aggressive defender, Roberts’ elite lateral quickness allows him to anticipate passing lanes, creating steal opportunities. As a result of his defensive awareness, he leads the team in steals with just over two per game.

Roberts havoc-inducing defense flusters opposing offenses and allows the Panthers to get out in transition and score quick, fast and in a hurry. Roberts studies film of NBA players he models his game after, highlighting the dedication he has towards his craft.

“Being from the same city, going to the same high school, I would have to say Jeff Teague is a guy I study and model my game after, how he carries himself on the floor, how he moves with and without the ball,” said Roberts. “Fred VanVleet is another guy I’ve been watching not even just how he scores but the passion he has and how he controls the tempo of the game.”

Roberts and the Panthers have big plans for their team this season as the team chemistry on and off the court has shown throughout the season’s first seven games.

“For the team, our goal is to make a deep run in the tournament; we have the team and the coaching staff to do it,” Roberts said. “One thing I believe our team has that a lot of other teams don’t is we love playing with each other; our locker is one of the best environments I’ve ever been a part of.”

The COVID-19-riddled offseason seems not to have phased the Panthers, as their fluidity and energy mirrors that of a team built on years of togetherness. The players’ growth and maturity and a coaching staff who believe in every individual on their team prove vital as they head into conference play in January.