Loran Smith: Roy Roberts remains a Bulldog in blue

One of Georgia’s most loyal basketball season ticket buyers over the years descended from an ardent Bulldog family, but wore Kentucky blue.

Roy Roberts, who is seasoned and sanguine, would like to see Georgia fare better in basketball and never misses a home game. He could have enrolled at Georgia on athletic scholarship — his parents’ friendship with the late Wallace Butts was so entrenched that all Roy had to do was express an interest. He played center in football for Northside High in Atlanta, snapping the ball to his best friend, Stan Gann, who later played quarterback for Georgia Tech. “I actually got more football scholarship offers than I did in basketball,” Roy said recently. His older brother Jim was a football letterman in 1958, and his younger brother Billy was a member of Butts’ last signing class, lettering in 1963. Their father, Jim, lettered as a manager in 1927. “My family has been identified with Georgia for many years, and I still have great affection for the Bulldogs until they play Kentucky,” Roy smiles.

Since college, Roy has been running the family farm, managing a large herd of registered Hereford cows on 1,000 acres in Walton County.

You might think it is more like a country club with tennis courts and basketball goals dominating the scene. He has a group of friends who play tennis four times a week. There is a 200 acre lake with big bass and brim, but Roy says he doesn’t have time to fish with all the farm duties and, of course, his continued interest in competitive basketball.

He plays in a senior basketball league sponsored by Piedmont Bank. His team has won the state title four years in a row and claimed the gold medal two years ago at St. George, Utah. “It is fun to still compete,” Roy says with an upbeat grin. “A couple of my teammates are Alan Johnson and Jimmy Pitts, who played for Georgia.”

When George Walton Academy needed a basketball coach a few years ago, they asked Roy to coach the team. He put in the Kentucky offense and averaged over 100 points a game. George Walton won two state championships. The only other time he was offered a coaching job was when he was graduated from Kentucky and his coach, Adolph Rupp, invited him to be an assistant. Roy turned him down and Rupp hired Joe B. Hall, who would win a national title in 1978. Roy still doesn’t second guess his decision. Life down on the farm has been rewarding.

He still buys Kentucky season basketball tickets, but seldom returns to Lexington more than a couple of times a year. At 6-4, 190, he was an undersized player even for his era. Roy played in 26 games his junior year and 25 his senior year, scoring 407 career points for a 9.0 average. Where he excelled was on defense.

Every day during his sophomore year, he lined up against All-American Billy Ray Lickert, who appreciated his teammate’s tenacity. One day during an interview, Lickert was asked who was the toughest player he had played against during the season. The interviewer was taken aback when Lickert said, “Roy Roberts.”

At the time, Rupp had not given much thought to playing Roberts regularly. Licker’s comment influenced things. Roy became a starter. He played on the Wildcats team that beat Ohio State in the 1961-62 season. The Buckeyes started Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek and extracted revenge in the Mideast Regional in March.

Roy found fulfillment in his basketball experience and is about as much of a fan today as any former player.