ORONO — Freshmen can sometimes be hesitant on the court as they make the jump from high school to Division I. Not Ashleigh Roberts.
The University of Maine’s first-year guard has demonstrated confidence and aggressiveness during her first season with the program.
“She has a confidence about her and I think she has a competitive spirit,” said Black Bears coach Cindy Blodgett.
Roberts has been a true driving force for UMaine and will showcase her abilities Wednesday when the Bears host Albany in a 7:30 p.m. America East game at Alfond Arena.
The point guard from Wilmington, Del., ranks third on the team, averaging 10.1 points per game. She has scored 14.7 ppg in three league contests and has already earned the America East Rookie of the Week three times.
Roberts, who posted a double-double in Sunday’s victory over Maryland Baltimore County with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, has played in all 15 games, making seven starts.
She also is averaging 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals in 24.7 minutes per contest.
“I think some of that (confidence) comes from her putting the time in,” Blodgett said of Roberts’ work ethic. “She wants the ball in those big moments.”
Roberts has made herself a constant threat off the dribble. She frequently takes the ball hard to the basket.
“To me, a shot closer to the basket is always better,” Roberts said. “I just try to get as close as I can.”
Not only is she adept at finishing her close-range opportunities, she also has been able to get to the foul line often.
“Ashleigh’s game is unconventional. She has the ability to penetrate and finish in the lane unlike most players,” Blodgett said.
Roberts arrived on campus last summer having developed a certain swagger during her career at Concord High School, where she finished No. 1 the school’s career scoring list and eighth in Delaware girls basketball history with 1,646 points.
Blodgett said Roberts’ transition was aided by having the chance to play with her new team during a four-team exhibition tour of Canada in August.
“I think she realizes that she has talent, which is huge,” Blodgett said. “You’ve got to understand your strengths in order to use them.”
Roberts has often tiptoed a fine line between being aggressive and out of control. She often picks up player-control fouls and has been prone to turnovers (4.9 per game).
Blodgett said that should improve with time and Roberts must continue to seek a happy medium when attacking the basket. She must learn to integrate her strengths with those of her teammates.
“(The coaches) tell me to pull up and stuff. That’s what I’m working on doing more, so I don’t pick up charges,” said Roberts, who usually looks to score first.
As is the case for many freshmen, Roberts admitted learning to play defense has been the toughest challenge. She played on the bottom of a 2-3 zone in high school, but she must play a lot of man-to-man and 1-2-2 matchup zone at UMaine.
Blodgett said the solidly-built 5-foot-9 guard has good defensive instincts and has demonstrated a willingness to learn and improve her game. She often asks to watch game film with the coaches.
“I think she has a certain edge about her. She wants to get better,” Blodgett said. “She has a willingness to be coached.”
And Roberts isn’t afraid to take charge.
“She wants the ball in those big moments,” Blodgett said.