FDU guard Demetre Roberts

Demetre Roberts stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 165 pounds. Coming out of Mount Vernon High School in New York, he longed to play Division 1 college basketball.

The feeling was not mutual.

Only one coach offered him a scholarship. It was Tobin Anderson, who ran the Division 2 program at St. Thomas Aquinas College in nearby Sparkill.

“I must have sent him 250 texts or calls,” Anderson recalled. “He might have returned three or four of them over six months.”

FDU guard Demetre Roberts

Eventually, Roberts saw the light.

“I realized there was no coach out there pushing and checking me out the way he (Anderson) was doing,” Roberts said. “If there’s a message I can give to high school kids out there, it’s go to a school that wants you.”

The pair led St. Thomas Aquinas (known as STAC) to four straight D-2 NCAA Tournaments, and when Anderson got hired to take the reins at Fairleigh Dickinson last spring, he brought Thomas – along with fellow STAC standouts Grant Singleton and Sean Moore – with him. Thus far they have engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in all of Division 1. After finishing 4-22 last season, the Knights are 12-10 overall and 5-2 in the Northeast Conference. They play for first place Thursday at home against St. Francis (Pa.).

“The difference between Division 1 and Division 2, it’s just a number,” said Roberts, who is averaging 17 points and 4 assists per game. “There are a lot of D-2 basketball players who could definitely play D-1 if they had the chance.”

FDU basketball coach Tobin Anderson addresses the Knights

Swept the floor

Fairleigh Dickinson averages 78 points per game, tops in the Northeast Conference. Singleton (14.8 ppg) and Moore (5.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) are right at home at this level, just like Roberts. And the 51-year-old Anderson, who first became a head coach at D-3 Clarkson (N.Y.) at age 27, is proving that good coaching translates to any level.

“I was able to make mistakes as a young head coach and no one paid any attention,” he said. “Not just Xs and Os, but how you handle your team, how you bounce back from things, and I think you learn more from being a head coach than you do as an assistant,” he said. “Now I’m at the point where I’ve seen a lot. (At STAC) I’m ordering the food, I’m getting the hotels, I’m sweeping the floor. Whatever happens, you’re kind of ready for it.”

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