Delvon Roe has had surgeries on both knees, has no jump shot of which to speak, can’t use his right hand and is a “tweener” at 6-8, 230 — with the body of a small forward and the game of a power forward.
But when Roe feels good and plays well, his Michigan State team is much better for it. And if there’s an “X” factor for the Spartans entering the NCAA Tournament, he has to be it. Roe’s late defense on Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson was a big part of MSU’s 74-56 upset of the Boilermakers on Friday, but on Saturday he was a non-factor as the Spartans lost 61-48 to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
“Mentally exhausted,” Roe said of the Spartans after their third game in three days.
Roe went scoreless with three rebounds and did not make the defensive impact the Spartans if they want to advance at all in March. Lately, though, he has been that kind of player for Tom Izzo.
“He’s healthy enough, he wants to be a defender, to be the guy that can do that,” Izzo said of Roe, a member of the Big Ten All-Defense team this season.
Roe, one of the top high school prospects in the nation in 2008, has had well-chronicled knee problems, starting with microfracture surgery on his right knee as a high school senior. He recently suffered a bone bruise in the same knee, but he has been able to play with no pain at the Big Ten Tournament.
When Roe erases a key offensive player and crashes the boards for the Spartans, they are a much better team for it. Asked after the Purdue game about Roe’s late flurry of plays to seal that victory, Izzo got emotional and wiped tears from his eyes.
“Coach wears his heart on his sleeve,” Roe said later of Izzo’s reaction. “He really cares a lot, and he just told me I played like a man out there and he was really proud of me. I know I can do that for us if I’m healthy, and I’ve felt great the last couple days. No pain, no nothing.”
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