Oaklands Wolves men have strengthened their roster ahead of their first games in 2021 with the addition of American, AJ Roberts.
The guard/forward played for Wolves' predecessors Essex Leopards in 2016/17 season and was an instant hit with the club's fans. A disastrous injury crisis saw the Big Cats relegated in March 2017 and Basketball England rules prevented him re-signing for the club in Division Two as he was classed as a professional. He subsequently joined Wolves' neighbours Hemel Storm for the 2017/18 season where he won the National Cup and reached the Division One play-off final. He then moved to BBL newcomers London City Royals for the 2018/19 campaign where he helped them win the BBL Trophy and finish runners-up in the play-offs.
After missing the aborted 2019/20 season, Roberts can't wait to get back into action with Wolves: "I’m very thankful for Thomas [Baker], Dave [Ryan], Lee [Ryan] and Michael Ball for allowing me to the join the Oaklands Wolves programme" he said "Despite what I’ve been through, they welcomed me in with open arms and I’m very grateful for that! I’m looking to contribute to the team and help secure some wins. It feels great to be able to play the game I love again and I look forward to making the most of it! I hope to see all the fans soon!"
Thomas Baker, Wolves coach, is excited about coaching Roberts again: “To welcome AJ to the Wolfpack is excellent for us. Since my brief spell with him when I first took over as Leopards coach, I have been trying for a number of years to work with him again." he said.
"He is a player who immediately makes us better and always plays with the highest quality. He has already shown great leadership when interacting with his teammates. I am excited to see how we develop with AJ now with us. I think he can help us improve further to the type of team we need to be and it will be great to see him step out in a Wolves uniform this weekend.” Wolves team manager Dave Ryan, who previously managed Leopards, is delighted to see Roberts back with the club: "AJ brings a fantastic attitude both on and off the court to Wolves. We were so disappointed not to keep him with Leopards after our relegation, it's great to have him back to our new-look club where I'm sure he'll be a great help to our young team."
Prior to playing for the Big Cats the 30-year-old graduated from Union College in the States and played professionally for Buffalo 716ers in the Pro Basketball League in his home country. Roberts transferred to Union from Niagara County Community College in New York where he played two seasons of basketball. He was named third team all-region as a freshman and first team all-region as a sophomore in junior college. The new member of the Wolfpack earned the team MVP award in both his seasons. In junior college, he averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks per game. Prior to that Roberts prepped at Niagara Catholic (N.Y.) High School where he played basketball and football. He led his basketball team to the 2005 and 2007 MMCC Title, along with a Catholic State runner-up in 2007. In high school basketball, Roberts earned first team all-Catholic, defensive MVP, team MVP twice, and team captain three times.
Roberts and the Wolves have a busy weekend ahead of them as they take on Essex Rebels away on Saturday, and Leicester Warriors at home on Sunday.