Sunday January 20, 2013

AMHERST

The University of Massachusetts hung Marcus Camby's number on the wall at the Mullins Center on Saturday night. Watching the festivities was the player who is the first Atlantic 10 legend from the school.

Lou Roe, 40, who played for John Calipari from 1991-95 and with current head coach Derek Kellogg, is back on campus as he works for Kellogg and to get his bachelor's degree.

Roe is part of the inaugural A-10 Men's Basketball Legends Class. He is the only player named who played after 1990, and is part of a group that includes coaches like Temple's John Chaney and Xavier's Skip Prosser.

It's part of Roe's journey that took him to the NBA and then to Europe and South America to play basketball professionally.

"My main focus is finishing my degree. I'm here to give inspiration to the guys, sort of like a mentor and an ambassador to the team," Roe said.

Camby's number is now on the wall, joining Roe's and Julius Erving's. But when the A-10 put out its first group of Legends, it was the Atlantic City, N.J. native who was the first UMass player picked and not Dr. J or Camby.

The Mullins Center was built, in large part, by the successes of John Calipari's early UMass teams. Roe, who played from 1991-95, is certainly a part of that legacy. He laughed when I asked about his being in the old Curry Hicks Cage for a practice.

"It felt as if I never left," said Roe. "Actually, the Cage looks exactly the same. Seeing Derek's face out there as the head coach reminds me that everything is going in the right direction."

Roe was the first consensus All-American in UMass history. He was a three-time All-Atlantic 10 first-team selection, is third alltime at UMass inscoring with 1,905 points, and leads the school with 1,070 rebounds and 578 free throws made.

Eventually, Roe said he'd like to do more than just serve as an advisor to Kellogg's team. Due to NCAA regulations, he is not allowed to work with players at practice or during games. Eventually, Roe said he'd like to coach.

What might just be the most impressive part of Loe Roe's long journey is that he is back here.

He was the first player chosen in the second round of the 1995 NBA Draft by Detroit. He spent two years in the NBA, and then began a sojurn that took him to the CBA in the States, Spain, South Korea, Mexico and Argentina.

"It's tough. I've been traveling since I was 17 years old -- hotel to hotel, city to city, country to country," he said. "It's been a little tough. I gained a world of experience and wisdom from it all. I was able to experience different cultures and another way of life. I'm completely grateful."

Playing basketball was important to Roe. Working for his former teammate is important to Roe. But getting that degree is why he is back here.

"It's very important. I've got five children now ... and they always ask questions about school and the university. I kind of feel a little bit empty when I talk about it, because I don't have a degree," said Roe. "I'm a first-generation [college] guy. My parents will be proud and I'll be able to look at my children and say that it took time, but I was able to get my degree."