DENVER -- Russell Westbrook relaxed on a courtside chair Tuesday afternoon at Pepsi Center, two seats down from Andre Roberson.

Within moments, cameras and media members surrounded Roberson, a rookie for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Westbrook, the Thunder's star point guard, laughed and then muttered, "I'm outta here."

During his six seasons in the NBA, Westbrook has had plenty of his moments in front of the cameras. This one, however, belonged the Roberson, a 6-foot-7 forward averaging 1.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.

For Roberson, the trip to Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday night marked a return to the state where he made a name for himself.

"It's good to be back," Roberson said.

Roberson finished his three-year career at Colorado in March and a month later made the decision to skip his senior season and enter the NBA Draft.

It was a decision that not everyone close to the program agreed with, and many thought Roberson was making a mistake.

"They just didn't really know what was going on in the whole process," Roberson said Tuesday. "They were basically looking from the outside in. They didn't have the same information as me. It's understandable that some people are disappointed that I left. But I have to do what's best for me and my family."

CU head coach Tad Boyle and former athletic director Mike Bohn both tried to get Roberson to stay in Boulder.


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As it turned out, Roberson's decision paid off. He was selected late in the first round, with the 26th overall pick, in June. After a couple of trades, he landed with the Thunder, the team that wanted him all along.

Projected as a potential second-rounder -- or possibly not even being picked at all -- Roberson surprised many when he went in the first round. As a first-rounder, he got a guaranteed contract and, thus, potentially securing his financial future.

After the draft, Boyle texted Roberson and said, "What the hell do I know? Congratulations."

Roberson said he and Boyle still have a good relationship, and that's part of what made the decision to leave Colorado so difficult.

"I was going back and forth," Roberson said. "It was a tough decision. It was a major changing point in my life. That's why it was tough and I was taking so much time on it.

"I have no regrets. Everything worked out for the best."

Asked if he wanted to say "I told you so" to anyone who doubted him, Roberson smiled.

"Uh, I mean ... no, not really," he said. "I just have to move on from that aspect and I don't really look back and regret anything. I have to move on now."

Instead, the exceptional rebounder and defender is focused on his game and getting better, he said.

"I've grown a lot," he said. "I'm definitely learning a lot from these guys, just about the NBA lifestyle and how the organization gets up and down the court. I've really learned a lot and grown a decent amount of confidence in myself."

Roberson started three games when teammate Thabo Sefolosha went down with an injury, but has otherwise seen very limited time on the court. In fact, prior to Sefolosha's injury, Roberson had been sent down the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA D-League. In three games in Tulsa, Roberson averaged 17.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.  He played just 1 minute, 16 seconds at the end of Tuesday's game in Denver -- a 105-93 Thunder win.

"I'm definitely growing and gaining a tremendous amount of confidence in myself," Roberson said. "It should carry on. I'm working hard every day, helping my team out the best way I can."

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said Roberson is "a tough-minded defensive player that's committed to the team. He's going to be one of those guys that he does all the little things."

Brooks added: "At this point we're not looking at his offense; we're looking at his impact on the game defensively. He's a very athletic, long player that can cause problems."

That was the scouting report on Roberson coming into the NBA, but he's also working on developing his game offensively.

"I changed my shot," he said. "I'm working with (assistant coach Brian Keefe) every day on it, just correcting some things. I'm getting better. But, I'm still focusing on my defense. That's one thing I have a tremendous amount of confidence in is my defense and rebounding."

As for the Buffs, Roberson said he still follows his former team closely. He watched the entire game when CU upset then-No. 6 Kansas on Dec. 7, 75-72 on an Askia Booker buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

"Ski hit a big shot to win it and it was crazy," Roberson said. "I was jumping around in my house."

He said he keeps in contact with former teammates -- some of which were planning to attend the game Tuesday. Roberson's sister, Arielle, a sophomore forward for the CU women's team, also made the trip to Denver to see her brother.

For Andre Roberson, though, the trip was a short one. After the game, he and the Thunder headed home. They've got a game in Oklahoma City on Thursday.

"It's good. I can't complain," he said of the NBA life. "I'm trying to get better, working hard every day."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.