Various NCAA Division I basketball programs pursued 6-foot, 7-inch Shoemaker forward J’Wan Roberts, including Oklahoma, Baylor, St. John’s, Sam Houston State, Texas A&M and Seton Hall.
Yet, his main criteria for where he would commit was that he had to feel at home.
Roberts found a home at the University of Houston and signed his national letter of intent Wednesday morning in the Shoemaker High School library.
“It feels pretty good to pick the right school and a school that’s fit for me,” Roberts, who verbally committed in early September, said. “Signing to the University of Houston will benefit me and help me grow as a better person while helping me with my basketball skills.”
After looking to his family for support throughout the entire recruitment process, it was only fitting he was surrounded by family as he made his commitment to the Cougars official.
“It’s a big deal, because he’s actually been looking forward to this practically his whole life,” said Roberts’ older sister Genique De Castro. “Everything is about basketball.
“This is what he’s been working toward for a very long time, so I’m very proud of him.”
Two of his aunts, two of his cousins and his two sisters were beside him while more of his family lived streamed his signing on their phones.
“I just love my family,” Roberts said. “They sat down with me through the process and just told me what’s right and what’s wrong.
“I can’t thank them more.”
And while it was a mix of immediate and extended family, he added, “First and foremost, I love them all equally.
“I love all the support. I just love them.”
Roberts knew Houston was the school for him after taking his official vision at the end of August. De Castro also knew it was the right pick for her brother after he returned.
“He came back and said a lot of great things about the school, so I knew that he knew that’s where he wanted to be,” she said.
While Roberts will play home games just about three hours outside of the Killeen area, location did not play a factor in his overall decision.
“To be honest, it didn’t really matter how far the distance is,” he said. “Once I can put my family in a position where I can help them out and do anything to help them out or succeed, it didn’t matter what the distance was.”
No matter where he would have chosen to play, his family was prepared to support him.
“Even if he was far away, we would have tried our best to make his games,” De Castro said, “but it’s a definitely bonus that he’s close by.”
Roberts, who has played for the Grey Wolves since he was a freshman, hopes his signing shows it is possible to pursue the dream regardless of anybody’s doubts.
“People talk a lot about Shoemaker,” he said, “but Shoemaker is actually a good school with a coaching staff that actually helps you, and your teammates have your back, so I’m glad I chose Shoemaker.”
Grey Wolves head coach Brandon Gilbert also believes that Roberts’ story can show younger athletes it is possible to continue on to big programs after they graduate.
“It’s everything,” Gilbert said, “especially for a kid that has put in so much work over the two years I’ve had him. I’ve watched him mature a bit over the last two years.
“To see him accomplish his dream of going to college is a big deal for him, and I’m hoping it inspires other around here that they too, if they put in the work, they can also go somewhere and play.”
With his senior season ahead, Roberts has his eyes set on accomplishing one goal before representing the Cougars – win a state title for the Grey Wolves.
“I expect for him to be what we think he is, not only one of the best players in the state of Texas but nationwide,” Gilbert said. “I expect him to be a leader on the court, let everyone feed off of him and give them confidence so that they can play that much bigger, better and stronger.”
Roberts plans to lead by example both on and off the court.
“Just keep working hard, because hard work will pay off,” Roberts said to his teammates. “You’ve got my back, and I’ve got yours.”