SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – It didn’t take very long time for McKayla Roberts to come up with a word to sum up her time at Le Moyne.
“I think I would say champion,” said Roberts.
A fitting word as she helped the Dolphins to their only conference tournament title her junior year.
“Winning the NE10 championship. That was the best day of my life,” Roberts said with a big smile. “It’s something that Coach Castelli talked about when I first came in wanting to accomplish, and all the girls wanted to accomplish so it was cool.”
Winning was a theme for the former C-NS Northstar at Le Moyne. In her four years on the Heights, the Dolphins were 77-39. No other four-year stretch was more successful in wins or accomplishments, including qualifying for the NCAA tournament two of the three times in the school’s history in back-to-back years.
“It was amazing. Something that I would cherish forever and always remember. I’ll always talk about it with my family. It was just an awesome experience that I can’t even describe,” said Roberts.
In fact, in what turned out to be her final NCAA tournament game, Roberts nearly led the Dolphins to the Elite Eight in the East Region Championship against Sciences. Roberts gave Le Moyne a 52-51 lead with 2:09 to play, before the Dolphins fell 63-61. It’s a game that sticks out in Le Moyne women’s basketball head coach Gina Castelli’s mind.
“She just basically put on a show. She put us on her back and although we didn’t win the game, she got the MVP at the east region. I don’t think that’s ever happened before to give it to a losing team. I think that says a lot about her,” says Castelli.
Coach Castelli could see McKayla’s potential when she recruiting her.
“I knew she was a steal in a lot of ways. Fortunately, she was short,” laughed Castelli. “A lot of other coaches maybe thought she was too small to play but you could see her demeanor on the floor, her high basketball IQ, her talent and exceptional skills you knew she could make a difference regardless of size.”
The 5’4” senior made a big impact durig her career. She was always focused on winning any game that she played but, in the process, made history.
“I never really thought I was gonna come in and break these records,” said Roberts.
Roberts 1,798 career points, 620 career assists and 297 made threes are all all-time records at Le Moyne. In fact, in the 44 years of the women’s program at Le Moyne no one best Roberts in games played, games started, field goal attempts, three-point attempts, three-point shooting percentage, free throw shooting percentage, assist average or minutes played.
She led Le Moyne in scoring and assists every season she played. She was the NE10 freshman of the year and was named to the All-Rookie team as well as the NE10 third team her first year. She followed that up with placement on the NE10 second team as a sophomore and back-to-back NE10 first teams as a junior and senior. Her 297 made threes are a conference record as well.
On top of that, she is the only Le Moyne player to earn two All-American honors after being named a WBCA All-American Honorable mention for two straight seasons.
“It was my junior year of college, I started to break these records so it was like ‘oh this is awesome’,” said Roberts.
“I coached a long time myself. And definitely one of if not the best player I ever coached. There was no secret that I felt she could make an incredible impact on our program. I’m not surprised. I didn’t think she was gonna come in and do little things. I thought she was gonna make a huge impact on her program and she did right from the beginning,” said Castelli. “Beyond that she’s just a really great person. So, we’re certainly gonna miss her.”
McKayla thinks she and her fellow seniors are leaving Le Moyne in a good place.
“I just think we made our mark and hopefully we impacted the players beneath us so they can keep le Moyne’s program going and keep being a top contender,” said Roberts.
From C-NS to Le Moyne, McKayla knows she has grown a lot and thinks her younger self would be surprised at her accomplishments.
“I think I would tell myself that you’re gonna go through a lot of hard times but you’re gonna be able to push through it. And as much as you think you know everything about basketball, you’re gonna learn a lot more,” said Roberts.
And has plenty of people to thank for all she learned over the years.
“Definitely my family, they were there for me in my best moments, my worst moments. They helped me throughout my entire career. Whether it was like rebounding for me, or fixing something in my jump shot. They were just always my biggest supporters,” said Roberts. “And I have to think of all my coaches, Coach Castelli and my high school coach, Coach (Eric) Smith – they taught me so much that I can’t even think about right now. They shaped me into the person I am today.”
While Roberts does not know exactly what’s next for her, but has not ruled out returning to the game as a coach.