Umass Struck It Rich with Roe Atlantic City All-American Is a Jackpot

By Mike Eisenbath Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 4, 1995 | Go to article overview

Umass Struck It Rich with Roe Atlantic City All-American Is a Jackpot


Mike Eisenbath Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


There's no place like home - that includes Atlantic City, N.J.

"I tell a lot of people where I'm from, and they act like they can't believe anyone is from there," University of Massachusetts senior Lou Roe said. "They'll say, `How can you live in Atlantic City?' They don't think there's anything other than casinos there.

"Actually, it's not like Las Vegas. We've got casinos just on that one strip, by the Boardwalk."

Cross the bridge from that strip of gambling, hotels and entertainment. That's where Atlantic City's latest basketball sensation learned his trade.

Roe, a national player-of-the-year candidate, will ply his trade Thursday at a packed Kiel Center. Fourth-ranked UMass will play St. Louis University about 8:30 p.m. in the second game of a nationally televised doubleheader pitting Atlantic 10 Conference clubs against teams from the Great Midwest.

Search as they might, the Billikens might not find a trump card in their hand to counter the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Roe.

"If UMass handles the ball and gets it in to their big people, there's no way we're going to handle UMass," SLU coach Charlie Spoonhour said.

The Minutemen's first All-American was not Julius "Dr. J" Erving; rather, Lou Roe. Such was his reward for averaging 18 1/2 points and more than eight rebounds last season. With similar numbers this season, Roe can expect even higher praise.

Roe, 22, is talking about the National Basketball Association, and everyone else is nodding their heads.

But his isn't the story of a pro hoops dream cultivated on the playgrounds of an inner-city neighborhood or the sweaty gym of an elementary school. Oh, Roe played ball as a young boy. He also played football and baseball. He had fun.

It just had nothing to do with thoughts of playing for pay someday. Not then.

"I didn't even have a clue about college basketball until I got to the ninth grade" at Atlantic City High, Roe said. "I played all the sports, but I never really watched anything on TV. I really didn't know about the way you advanced along, from high school to college to the pros, until I was in the eighth grade. Willie Glass had gone to the same high school I was going to and then to St. John's. My coach put all his newspaper clippings on the board.

"In the ninth grade, I watched the Final Four for the first time. I saw that whole college atmosphere, and I thought, `That's the type of atmosphere I want to be a part of.' "

He brought that atmosphere into clearer focus the summer between his freshman and sophomore years in high school.

"I grew some - about 4 or 5 inches," Roe said. "That helped."

By his senior year, Roe had turned into a recognizable basketball name among coaches and scouts from California to Maine. His squad had a 24-2 record and reached the state semifinals, thanks to his 26 points and 15 rebounds a game. …

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