Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
SPOKANE, Wash. – Her new teammates call her “Smiley.”
To those who know Arielle Roberson, that won’t come as a surprise.
It’s significant for Roberson, though, because during the end of her time at Colorado, her smile faded.
Now playing for the West Virginia women’s basketball team, Roberson is healthy and happy.
“I’m really happy. Can’t you tell?” she said with a laugh before a recent practice at Gonzaga University, where she and the Mountaineers played in a tournament last week. “I’m making really good relationships; I feel like I’m fitting in. It’s all good.”
Colorado fans were hoping to see Roberson playing in Boulder this season, but life took her in a different direction.
A 6-foot-1 forward from San Antonio, Roberson was at CU for four seasons, from 2011-15. She was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2013 and earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2014.
Those were the only two seasons she got to play for the Buffs,. She missed her freshman year with a hip injury. She battled through another injury during the summer of 2013. Then came the final, crushing blow, when she tore the ACL in her left knee one week before the start of practice last season.
One of the most upbeat players to come through the CU program in recent years, Roberson was devastated she couldn’t play one last season with the women in her 2011 recruiting class: Lexy Kresl, Jen Reese and Jasmine Sborov.
“It was very bitter,” she said. “I felt like I was the most ready I’ve ever been, because that was my first (healthy) summer.
“When it was the last go-round for them and obviously for us as a core, it was one of those things that was kind of hard to swallow. I love them a lot and to not be able to actually be there on the court with them, it made it so difficult.”
After too many letdowns in Boulder, Roberson struggled to regain her positivity and felt it was time to go looking for it.
“I was just so frustrated with constantly having setbacks there that I just wanted a change for my mental space,” she said. “It was changing me and I needed to figure out a place to go clear my head, so I could get myself back to where I used to be, lifewise.”
Roberson graduated from CU in May and could have played out her career in Boulder, where she was beloved by the fans. She said it was difficult to tell CU head coach Linda Lappe and her Buffs’ teammates that she was leaving.
“I had been juggling back and forth with (the decision) because I love Boulder, I love the fans, I love the program,” she said. “I love everything about it. But when it was compromising my happiness overall, that was the biggest thing.
“We’re all a family there, and to feel like you’re letting somebody down it’s never easy, especially when you look up to a lot of people and a lot of people look up to you.”
In West Virginia, she has found a team that seems to have embraced her as CU did. It’s also a program, led by 14th-year coach Mike Carey, that will play several games in Roberson’s home state of Texas.
Roberson has started every game for the Mountaineers (4-2), although she’s not the focal point she would have been in Boulder. Still working through the mental hurdles of returning from an ACL injury, Roberson said she feels more comfortable each game.
More than anything, though, she’s got that smile back.
“This is a beautiful place to be and the coaches know exactly what they’re doing,” she said. “It just felt like the right fit.
“I’m definitely getting a breath of fresh air here.”