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Beavers' Nelson hopes to extend final season as Pac-12 tourney opens

By Steve Rivera - Mar 11, 2014

What's college life without the learning or the growing up?

It's not always about textbooks or self-paced classes, although they are undoubtedly important, too.

For Roberto Nelson, it's all that and more. Berto - as they call him - has  gone from having a street degree to having a high-end basketball diploma, to now having a credibility he didn’t have four years ago - and that’s a sense of accomplishment, even if his Oregon State Beavers are not accomplished.

When it's all said and done he'll have a degree in new media communications, of course, not bad for a guy who started his career on the sideline because of academics.

Things change as do attitudes. Young players turn into veteran players. Complex turns to compelling.

And that's Nelson, Oregon State's sharp shooter in sneakers.

"He's worked extremely hard," Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said recently. "He's really made strides … I've always thought that you're off-the-court success has everything to do with your on-the-court work ethic, integrity and character … all that. And as far as basketball, he's really worked on his game. He's been a better shot maker, although he's always been a great scorer. He's making plays. It's been a long journey, but it's been great. I'm just happy and proud I could be part of it."

Heck, Robinson is the one who helped ignite it, offering the former AAU Compton Magic star a scholarship to attend OSU.

Life, of course, isn't always easy. But patience on both sides eventually paid off.  Nelson slowly crept up the scoring ladder each season eventually finishing atop the conference in points scored per game this season at 20.6.

"Personally, it's been OK," he said about his season and the team's 16-14 record on the eve of the Beavers playing in the annual Pac-12 tournament. "It's been a bit up and down for me, especially at the end of the season, but I'm happy how things turned out. But I wish they would have turned out better for us in the standings."

The Beavers finished in 10th but Nelson did everything he could to get them higher. He led the team in scoring 21 of the 30 games and many times carried the team on his back. Still, it wasn't all about him - clearly not like it was when he first arrived.

"When he first got here," Robinson was quoted in, "he thought that scoring 40 a game was the way you won games."

In the end, points are nothing but numbers.

He did get a kick out of teams making him the emphasis of defenses.

"It was fun that they did that," he said. "Knowing that you're going to go up against somebody and you're going to get their best effort."

Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. More often than not, Nelson, a 6-foot-4 native of Santa Barbara, Calif., and son of a Hispanic mother (of Mexican decent), found a way.

But don't scorers always do? In fact, Nelson's book should be titled: Finding A Way!

How else can you say it? Here was a young man and on a very good AAU team trying to find a place where he was going to be comfortable and content all the while trying to find himself and succeed. Sure there were out of focus and blurry moments, but what kid - or star athlete - doesn't get clouded in their hubris?

"I've matured over the years, grown," he said. "I've learned to take school more seriously. Basketball has helped me take things more seriously, be more prepared and being able to take advantage of the situation more."

The ah-ha moment came somewhere during his sophomore year when he was becoming more and more a factor on the team. That season he finished averaging 9.3 points per game, becoming more of a go-to guy after mentor Jared Cunningham and others left. His junior year he averaged 17.8 points per game.

"The coaches came to me and said, 'we're going to need you to be the guy. We will need for you to step up your game, and play at the level you are capable of,'" he said. "It gave me confidence. My role changed and it was something I was a lot more comfortable with."

But he's always been comfortable around basketball. It's second nature to him, the reason why he'd like to play until he can't anymore.
"I'm going to hope for the best," he said. "I'm prepared for the worst - no matter where it's at."

It's a road he's willing to take. Who isn't? But perhaps more importantly, he'd like to be an inspiration for others, feeling that if you stick with it and work hard, good does happen.

"I've always wanted, even if I wasn't the most talented out there, to be a positive influence," he said. "For the freshmen and not just them but everybody. My parents raised me well. I have some competitive caring parents and that's rubbed off on me.

"I understand that people look up to me, so you have to carry yourself well. I'm very fortunate to be in a position like this. I'm blessed."



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