Shaping up as a keeper
Roe getting it in gear for Pistons
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/28/1995

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Pistons' perimeter players were required to run a mile in 5 minutes 45 seconds during training camp. Post players got a little leeway -- 6 minutes. Lou Roe, who starred at power forward for the University of Massachusetts, was drafted by Detriot last summer as a small forward who could also fill in at guard. But on his first mile run, he finished with the big guys.

That's when Roe discovered the difference between "in shape" and "in NBA shape."

"My legs were very sore, and I was hurting a week or two after that," said the 6-foot-7-inch player from Atlantic City. "I thought I was in shape. But you have to do a lot of things, as far as conditioning is concerned, to prepare for camp. My weight was up and I wasn't in physical shape to compete, especially for a guard."

Imagine that. Lou Roe, whose name was synonomous with "work ethic" at UMass, needing remedial work in physical fitness. It was one of a few setbacks leading up to his first NBA season.

There was also the summer workout with the Celtics in which he got winded midway through. His decision not to attend the predraft camp in Chicago didn't help, either. That heightened concerns about Roe's ability to perform at a position he'd never played before. Once projected as a lottery pick, he wasn't selected until the second round, albeit with the first pick.

Roe knows he was partly to blame. Spurred by bad advice, he got away from what made him one of college basketball's most tenacious players. It didn't take long to make a change: Roe improved his regimen and is in NBA shape. That will make it easier to prove he can play at this level.

"You know me," said Roe, UMass' second-leading career scorer. "I really worked harder and harder to get myself back in shape to keep myself in this rotation."

UMass coach John Calipari said Roe admitted a few weeks ago he wasn't in his best shape. Calipari questioned Roe's traveling to work out with teams on both coasts as well as his decision not to attend the predraft camp. He said Roe's first agent, Ed Lawson, should have handled those moves better.

When Roe was drafted in the second round, Lawson said he would consider sending his client overseas to play. But Roe opted for a change in representation. His current agent is Mitch Frankell, who also represents former Pistons guard Vinnie Johnson.

"He's doing a great job for me," said Roe. "I guess I was blind before. I didn't know what I was getting into with bad representation. But I'm with good people right now, and things are looking good."

When Pistons forward Grant Hill gets into foul trouble, coach Doug Collins summons Roe, who has seen increased minutes as well with injuries to guards Joe Dumars and Mark Macon. Roe started in place of Dumars against Washington Nov. 4, scoring 7 points and grabbing 3 rebounds in 27 minutes. Last night, he had his best game to date, scoring 14 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in 33 minutes against Orlando. Roe is averaging 13.4 minutes and 2.7 boards a game. As Hill's backup, he knows patience is a key word. "It's an adjustment, but it's the same situation I came into in college," he said. "I played limited minutes behind Harper Williams, Tony Barbee. Then at the end of the season, with more experience and confidence, I blossomed.

"It's the same situation here. I know I can play, and I'm a very aggressive player. With the way I work, as the season goes on, I can do nothing but get better."

In the Pistons' 102-100 win over Houston Sunday night, Roe spelled the foul-plagued Hill twice, finishing with 11 minutes, 2 points and 5 rebounds (4 offensive). His bucket came with 4:52 left in the third quarter when he leaped over several defenders to tip in Allan Houston's miss.

"These guys see me as a guard -- they don't know how well I can rebound the ball among the trees," said Roe. "I'm still a little hesitant taking shots. I'm still thinking Calipari's on the sidelines. But guys tell me, 'You don't miss in practice, so shoot in the game.' "

With three minutes left in the third quarter Sunday, Roe missed an open 3-point attempt, grabbed the offensive rebound, missed again, got another offensive board and was hacked. No call.

"Now if I was [Hakeem] Olajuwon or [Michael] Jordan, you know I would have been at the free throw line, but that's how it goes for rookies," said Roe.

Roe is likely to make his initial impact defensively. Amid various switches during the Houston game, he guarded six players -- guards Sam Cassell, Mario Elie and Kenny Smith, and forwards Mark Bryant, Clyde Drexler and Robert Horry.

The latter, at 6-10, posted up Roe on the left wing with 7:10 left in the third and called for the ball. Mismatch, right? Tell that to Horry, who got a turnaround jumper swatted back in his face. In fact, the only player to score on Roe was Drexler, who nailed two buckets over him.

"[Horry] took me lightly," said Roe. "I guess his coach or somebody said, 'Lou Roe's in the game. It's a smaller guy.'

"When I go into the game, I'm not in awe. I don't care if it's Drexler or Horry or Olajuwon out there."

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