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Saturday, October 23, 2004
Senior could miss games for working out with NBA

Associated Press

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State senior Lawrence Roberts is practicing with the Bulldogs while the NCAA completes an investigation into his workout with the Portland Trail Blazers before he decided not to enter the NBA draft, his mother said Saturday.

Cynthia Roberts, in a telephone interview Saturday from Houston, told The Associated Press that while the Trail Blazers paid her son's expenses, the money was repaid when Roberts decided to return to Mississippi State for his senior season. She said the family voluntarily sent the NCAA all the financial records.

"They provided him with an airplane ticket and a hotel room and paid for his meals," Cynthia Roberts said. "They (the NCAA) have had the receipts since the end of July."

The Clarion-Ledger newspaper reported Saturday that Roberts may have to sit out up to three of the Bulldogs' opening games for accepting the money from Portland, even though it was paid back. Should there be any penalty, the newspaper reported, the minimum is three games or 10 percent of the schedule, according to NCAA bylaws. State's schedule includes 28 games.

Larry Templeton, the athletic director at Mississippi State, said Saturday the school is waiting for the NCAA to decide something.

"It's an amateurism issue, not an infractions issue," Templeton said. "It's a matter that we can't talk about until the NCAA tells us what they are doing."

Calls to Lawrence Roberts' home in Starkville went unanswered Saturday.

Cynthia Roberts said there have been no conversation with the NCAA about her son sitting out any games.

"This is the first I am hearing of that," she told The AP. "They have not said they are not going to clear Lawrence. They have not said anything to my knowledge that there is anything that Lawrence has done wrong.

"They say they are investigating ... they say they do that whenever a young man comes out and puts their name in the draft," Cynthia Roberts said. "The (NCAA) compliance people told me all the NCAA was doing was waiting to talk to Portland and get their take on everything Lawrence did there. Apparently, they never just take the young man's word for what he did. It's just a long, tedious, time-consuming process."

Roberts, a 6-9, 240-pound senior forward, averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds last season. Mississippi State finished 26-4 and won the Southeastern Conference championship. He was a first-team Associated Press All-American last year.

Roberts transferred to Mississippi State last season from Baylor.

Roberts applied for entry into the NBA draft but retained his amateur status because he did not hire an agent.

NCAA bylaws provide that a player can attend a tryout, "provided the student-athlete does not receive any form of expenses or other compensation from the professional organization."

Roberts withdrew his name from the draft a week before it was held.

NBA teams customarily provide airfare and accommodations when potential draft picks visit for private workouts. Roberts also attended the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago.

"It's not about the money, because they have all of that information," Cynthia Roberts said about the NCAA. "It's about who he played with when he was there, because apparently they have rules against them playing against the professional players. He didn't do that. We gave them the names of who he played with."

Cynthia Roberts said the Trail Blazers workout was the only private practice her son attended.