Memphis Postgame: The Strange Journey of Roburt Sallie

Leroy Watson Jr.Senior Writer IMarch 19, 2009

For the official Bleacher Report postgame update by Trey Bradley, on site at the West Regional in Kansas City, MO, click here.

A lot of people are scrambling right now to find information on Roburt Sallie, the Memphis guard who torched Cal State Northridge for 35 points, saving his team from the embarrassment of becoming only the fifth No. 2 seed to lose to a No. 15.

Sallie’s explosion in the midst of the Tigers’ 81-70 victory over the Matadors is the story of the day, but not because of any records he set.


It’s the story of the day because Roburt Sallie did it. The young man’s perseverance and ability to overcome adversity is one of the most remarkable stories in all of Division I sports.


Much has been written about Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier, the two Memphis seniors who, along with Chance McGrady, have set a record for most wins in a four-year career, 135.


Roburt Sallie, though classified as a sophomore, graduated from high school with Anderson and Dozier.


As in, graduated from the same school. As in, played on the same prep basketball team. As in, graduated in the same class.


College basketball aficionados remember the famed Laurinburg Institute Class of 2005. That group was a staggering 40-0 and won the prep national title. Sallie was among nine players to average at least 10 points per game for that team. You read that right.


He was the fourth-leading scorer on the squad, averaging 13.3 PPG. He led all the guards, as it was a trio of big men, including Dozier, in front of him.


He originally signed a National Letter of Intent with the Washington Huskies. And this is where the story turns excruciating.


Sallie did not meet Washington eligibility standards. So he enrolled in a different prep school—The Patterson School, following his coach, Chris Chaney—with intentions of getting his academics in order. He opened up his recruitment again.


He finally met the NCAA minimum ACT score and signed with Nebraska for the 2006-07 season.


Sallie began attending classes at NU, with the idea that he did not want to fall behind as the NCAA Clearinghouse attempted to verify his eligibility. It seems they wanted more verification that his transcripts were not doctored, and asked for homework assignments.


Sallie did not have them.


An obscure rule of the Big 12 conference was about to be a problem for Sallie—and Nebraska. To wit, Rule 6.2 of the Big 12 covenant reads in part:


“Any student-athlete who enrolls at a conference institution, part time or full time, must meet NCAA initial eligibility requirements.”


Though Sallie had not enrolled at Nebraska, school officials had filed documents indicating that he had!


Since the NCAA had never cleared Sallie, with Nebraska filing papers saying that Sallie had enrolled early, both he and the school were in violation of this rule. His class attendance gave the further indication that he had matriculated to NU.


This ended up costing him (and the school) dearly.


Nebraska asked for a waiver from the conference. The request was denied on the grounds that the University could not prove that the circumstances of the case justified a waiver.


Sallie hired an attorney, Don Jackson of Montgomery, AL. Jackson specializes in, of all things, NCAA eligibility issues.


Jackson got signed affidavits from every teacher Sallie had ever been assigned to. They affirmed that the young man had attended class, handed in his homework, and had been an all-around solid student.


The NCAA wasn’t having any of it; Sallie was ineligible.


Roburt was the only player from the Laurinburg Class of 2005 to have such issues, even though he took the same classes as everyone else.


He ended up landing much closer to his hometown of Sacramento, CA, enrolling at City College of San Francisco. He became California Junior College Player of the year, averaging 17 PPG and displaying his remarkable all-around game.


Recruited for a third time last spring and early summer by many of the elite schools of Division I, Sallie finally decided to come to the University of Memphis, in part because of the familiarity with his once-and-future teammates, Anderson & Dozier.


Sallie was thoroughly unaccustomed to the physical and mental intensity demanded by John Calipari. He had always been a superstar. Two different D-I schools (Washington and then Nebraska) had hyped him as one of their best recruits ever.


At Memphis, he was just another player. Playing time would not be handed to him; it would have to be earned.


If he wanted to start, he would have to play hard all the time—during practice, when on defense, when hustling after loose balls. He couldn’t just show up on game day and expect that he could ‘turn it on’ and let the ball fly.


Roburt Sallie has always been supremely talent. He has one of the purest jump shots in America, college or pro. He might make it to the NBA someday.


If he does, he will carry with him the memory of a very humbling journey. His circuitous trek, though, may yet have served some grand purpose.


Without those travails, he would not have been here today, at least temporarily saving the championship hopes of the Memphis Tigers.


He would not have been able to put on such a resplendent show in front of a national television audience.


He would not have so many people saying his name, wondering where he had come from, where he had been, and how he could put on such a performance.