Delvon Roe Gave MSU Everything He Had
Sept. 30, 2011
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Delvon Roe was never the basketball player Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he recruited out of high school. Sadly, because of the injuries that limited Roe his entire career, he never will be.
Citing yet another episode of pain and swelling in his surgically repaired and chronically problematic right knee, Roe announced Thursday that he has retired from the Spartans basketball team.
"With the intensity and focus you have to have to play at this level, I felt that mentally I just couldn't go through another year," Roe said while battling tears in the film theater of MSU basketball offices as his teammates looked on from the back of the room. "I wouldn't have the focus to be the player (the coaches) want me to be, the player I want to be and most importantly, the player my teammates need me to be."
Even though Roe's blue-chip potential was compromised the instant he sustained a microfracture injury in the first quarter of the first game of his senior season at Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward High School, his unparalleled toughness, drive and perseverance made him an instrumental part of a pair of Big Ten championships and two Final Four appearances.
He started 83 of 109 career games, including 22 of 34 last season as a junior. In 2009-10, he started 24 straight. He averaged 20.6 minutes, 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds throughout his career.
Roe led the Spartans with 42 blocked shots last season, and his 106 career blocks are second on MSU's all-time list. He tied his career scoring-high with 16 points last season at Purdue, and had a career-best 17 rebounds as a sophomore against Valparaiso.
All on a gimpy knee that put pin cushions to shame because of the number of times it's had to be drained or injected with pain-killers. He often deceived Coach Tom Izzo about good his knee felt just so he could stay on the court.
"It's not been an easy time for him," Izzo said. "But if you look at what he's done for us, if you ever consider a Spartan a warrior, you'd probably rate him right up there at the top. Over years, I think we built this program on toughness. I'm not sure we've ever had anybody any tougher than Delvon.
"I hope you remember him by what gave us. He probably gave us more than 99 percent of the guys who ever played here in any sport. He gave his health."
The latest setback, suffered about a week ago, was even more than the most battle-scarred warrior could endure.
"They took some bone chips out, and I guess for the 29th time, it was one time too many," Izzo said.
After enjoying his best spring of offseason workouts as a Spartan, Roe sustained an ankle injury that limited his activity throughout summer. During one of the supervised workouts allowed before the official start of preseason practice, Roe noticed that his body wasn't responding the way it had in spring.
"Something just wasn't feeling right, and it wasn't the ankle," he said. "I didn't have that speed that I usually have on defense. I just couldn't jump. Then last Saturday, it swelled up pretty big.
"Usually, these types of things happen at the end of the season. This year, I felt if this was going to happen for six straight months, constantly getting fluid taken out or getting shots just to play, I didn't think mentally I could do that."
Izzo had hoped Roe would be able to make it to Senior Day, celebrated at the final home game of the season.
"In some ways, I didn't think this day would ever come, and in some ways it seems like every year we had to talk about it," Izzo said. "The injuries have kind of taken up his eligibility in its own way."
"As I think back on what he's done for us, he's played with pain his entire career."
Through it all, Roe carried himself with uncommon poise, grace and impish good humor. He was a media member's dream, never failing to provide thoughtful, heartfelt answers to questions hurled at him even after the most difficult loss.
While it will be some time before Roe comes to grips with the decision that will separate him from "the only thing I knew my whole life," in the end, there was only one conclusion he could reach.
"It was a hard decision for me," Roe said. "It really came down to I got to the point where I just didn't want to just get through -- get through games, months, weeks, seasons. I wanted to play and have fun (and not) having to always be in a situation where with four minutes left in the game, I'm looking at clock wondering when this game is going to be over with.
"I don't think it's fair to my teammates and the coaching staff to constantly be telling people I'm going to be OK. I'm going to get through. At the end of the day, I think this is the best decision for me."
Roe leaves the team with a resume most college players from coast-to-coast would trade their right knee for.
"I have no regrets," he said. "I played in two Final Fours. I played in a national championship game (and) started. I got two Big Ten championships. The memories I have within this program will last a lifetime.
"And my (fellow) seniors, I love them to death. They know that. They know it got to a point where I had to think about myself. Since the first day I came here, it's never been about me. It's been about this program and this team."
Roe "thanked the fans, more than anyone, because they've always been my biggest supporters."
He will remain on scholarship until he receives his degree in theater -- he played the role of "Charles the Wrestler" in Shakespeare's "As You Like It" put on by the MSU Department of Theatre last season - in May.
Izzo said Roe will accompany the team to aircraft carrier game against North Carolina in San Diego on Nov. 11, and will be allowed to determine his involvement with the team on a practice-by-practice and game-by-game basis.
"In some ways, it's just a little early, but this is one that should be celebrated," Izzo said. "It won't be by us and by me right now, but it will be a lot easier as we move on."
Without the daily grind of basketball, Roe's knee should function normally for years to come, he said.
"If you would have told me when I got to Michigan State I was going to play in two Final Fours and win two Big Ten championships, I would have been happy," Roe said. "What made me realize it was worth it more than anything was the championships.
"It was worth every needle and every dose of medicine that I took - that's why we play the game, a chance to be on a Final Four team, a chance to win championships."
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