It has been a week of surprises for Burdette Haldorson.
The legendary Colorado basketball star was informed that he will be inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor during the conference tournament next month at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"I'll have to admit, when I first received the contact I thought, 'What the heck is this? I didn't play in the Pac-12,'" Haldorson said during an interview with the Camera.
Haldorson, know affectionately as "Birdie" by longtime Buffs fans, led CU to its first undisputed Big Seven championship and only Final Four appearance in 1954-55. During that magical season, CU's first-team All-American averaged 21.0 points and 13.8 rebounds.
Haldorson's 346 rebounds
"There's been a lot of good players up there," Haldorson said. "I'm really surprised the record hasn't been broken. I hope this kid breaks it."
Andre Roberson, the Buffs' dynamic sophomore, was also astonished to learn that he is on pace to break the 57-year-old record. The Pac-12's leading rebounder only needs to average 9.8 rebounds over CU's final five regular-season games to surpass Haldorson's hallowed mark.
Roberson is currently averaging 11.1 rebounder per game.
"It would mean a lot to me," Roberson said. "Coming here and breaking a milestone like that would be really cool."
Roberson has grabbed 297 rebounds in 25 games so far. Haldorson's single-season rebounding average is still safe; the Buffs only played a total of 25 games during his record-setting run.
For now, Cliff Meely remains second on CU's single-season rebounding lists with 337 during the 1968-69 season and an average of 12.8 rebounds during the 1969-70 season.
Some of the other great names Roberson is about to pass include Shaun Vandiver, Jim Davis and Stephane Pelle.
"It's a testament to Andre and the way he plays the game," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "As many milestones as we can reach, whether they're individual ones by our players or team ones, we want to set standards hopefully for future teams to shoot for."
Lost in translation
Boyle was able to sign the lightly recruited Roberson during the spring period after taking the CU job in April, 2010.
During his senior year at Wagner High School in San Antonio, Roberson averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots. Apparently, most major Division I head coaches ignored those stats and focused on the skinny, 6-7 frame.
Even Boyle was skeptical initially.
"Sometimes with high school statistics you have to be careful. I've seen kids that average 12 rebounds a game in high school, and then I watch film and I can't see them getting two," Boyle said. "I had no idea he would be the prolific rebounder he is today.
"They say that's one skill that translates to the next level, and I see why they say that because it has translated with Andre from high school to college."
Roberson packed some good genes for the trip to Boulder. His father, John, played at New Mexico State and professionally overseas for 12 years. His mother, Lisa, played volleyball for the Aggies of Las Cruces at the same time (1985-89).
Older sisters Ashlee (Texas Tech, basketball) and Amber (Texas, volleyball) are accomplished athletes in the Big 12. Younger sister Arielle is a freshman on the CU women's basketball team.
"It was just a natural instinct," Roberson said of his rebounding prowess. "My dad has been teaching me all about the game ever since I was young. Rebounding was one thing he didn't have to worry about when I was growing up. I had a nose for the ball. That's what he said he had, too."
As a true freshman, Boyle's first recruit made an immediate impact on a team that featured future NBA players Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, as well as standout senior leaders Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphorde. Roberson, who didn't start, set a CU freshmen record with 297 rebounds. He averaged 7.8 rebounds during the Buffs' 24-win campaign.
"I had high expectations for myself coming in as a freshman," Roberson said. "I just wanted to prove to the other guys that I could play at this level as well. I wasn't recruited very highly."
Sense of security
It didn't take Askia Booker, CU's freshman guard with jump-out-of-the-gym talent, very long to figure out who ruled the paint at the Coors Events Center. When the ball goes up, whether it's a Wednesday night practice or a sold-out Saturday night game, chances are pretty good Roberson is coming down with any missed shots.
"We know a lot of rebounds are going to be secured for us and we can get out and run. Once I see Dre going for the ball, I don't even go for it anymore," Booker admits. "I know he's going to grab it and my job is to get out and go. It speeds the game up a little bit."
Most of the Buffs have had sure rebounds ripped out of their grasp mid-air by the elastic man wearing No. 21.
"It still happens to this day. I'll go up for a rebound, and he'll come from nowhere and just snatch it," Booker said. "That's why I always look for Andre. If he's going up, I get out of there and run the lane."
Roberson's rebounding abilities jump off the screen and will probably lead to a lucrative job in the NBA. He also leads the Pac-12 in blocks (1.9 bpg).
"I didn't know that either," Roberson said. "I didn't expect to be leading the Pac-12 in blocked shots. I guess that's another milestone for our program."
Roberson is on pace to become the first player since Matt Bullard (1985-87) to lead the Buffs in rebounds, blocks and steals in his first two seasons. His 11.2 points per game also make him the only player in the Pac-12 averaging a double-double this season.
"God-given talent," Roberson explains. "I was blessed with it and I'm fortunate I have it."
A worthy new king
Roberson is one of the most explosive and well-rounded players in the country. Still, before he leaves CU -- nbadraft.net projects him as a lottery pick in 2013 -- parts of his game can still use some polish.
The list includes rebounding.
"As good a rebounder as Andre is, he's not a very good box-out guy. His man has gotten some offensive rebounds because he hasn't boxed out," Boyle said. "He relies on his instincts and his athleticism so much that sometimes he doesn't get as physical as he needs to be.
"It's hard for me to change what he's doing when he's averaging 11 rebounds a game. With that being said, I think he can get better in that area."
Roberson is shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from 3-point distance, but a more consistent mid-range game would really make him dangerous on offense. He might also have to be a more vocal leader next season with at least five freshmen arriving on campus to play for the 2012-13 Buffs.
"There is nothing you can ever stop working on in the game of basketball," Roberson said. "I worked on everything and I will do that again this offseason. ... I feel like I'm a quiet leader. I contribute a lot to the team success."
The work is paying off for Roberson and the Buffs. By the time Haldorson is honored at the Pac-12 Tournament there will likely be a new CU single-season rebounding king.
"He's a great rebounder. He has that knack of being in the right spot," Haldorson said. "He's a good player and if he breaks it I'm happy for him."
Birdie's single-game record of 31 rebounds appears to be safe. And so perhaps is Pelle's career rebounding record (1,054) if Roberson were to leave for the NBA before his senior season.
It will be interesting to see what other surprises Roberson has in store for the Buffs as his story unfolds.
Andre Roberson has 297 rebounds, which ranks 11th for a season in CU's 111-year history. Here are the top 10 performances the sophomore forward is on pace to pass with at least six games left.
1. Burdette Haldorson 346 1954-55
2. Cliff Meely 337 1968-69
3. Shaun Vandiver 336 1989-90
4. Cliff Meely 332 1969-70
5. Shaun Vandiver 331 1990-91
6. Jim Davis 329 1962-63
7. Jim Davis 318 1963-64
8. Stephane Pelle 314 2001-02
9. Cliff Meely 302 1970-71
10. Stephane Pelle 298 2002-03