‘Passionate’ Roberts guides Panthers

by Mark Oliver 

Throughout her basketball career, Cabot senior Lesley Roberts has served her team with strong leadership on the floor. With the Panthers’ season down to one crucial game, however, the senior must find a way to guide her team to the Class 7A state tournament from the sidelines.

“Earlier this month, I suffered a bad ankle sprain against Fort Smith Southside,” Roberts said. “Because I play such a big role on my team, it has been a difficult experience for me. As the leader and captain of our team, my job is to be there for my girls, even if I can’t be on the court with them. Over the past two weeks, while I’ve been working hard on my recovery, I’ve been trying to push the seniors to fill my role because we need that strong senior leadership to step in and lead our younger girls.”


Roberts was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 37 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Conway Ortho and Sports Medicine, Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. The senior was nominated by her head coach, Carla Crowder.

“Lesley is strong-minded and passionate about the game,” Crowder wrote in her nomination. “She is an unselfish player who always puts her team first. She can be trusted, has a good attitude, gives great effort and is a very humble player. She respects her teammates and the game.”

With one game standing between them and the Class 7A state tournament, Roberts and the Panthers (9-16, 2-11 Class 7A Central) are all-in against North Little Rock this week.

“North Little Rock is a big team with size and speed,” Roberts said. “We’ll have to play strong defense and block out. We’ll need to hit our shots, stop their drivers and rebound hard to be successful.”

Although she hasn’t been present on the court, the team captain hasn’t missed a beat in preparing the Panthers for their next challenge. 

“During practice, we have been watching film together, and I’ll help point out what we can do to penetrate opposing defenses and give the team pointers on plays and give them advice on how to play their positions,” Roberts said. “Each of us has a role, and we all help the team by doing our job. My job is to get these girls to the state tournament, and I’m committed to doing everything I can to get them there.”

The Panthers are no stranger to adversity this season. Earlier this year, the team forfeited three wins due to an ineligible player — a challenge that Roberts says brought the team closer together.

“Losing one of our players hurt us, but it didn’t break us,” Roberts said. “We had to adjust to fill that role. It was hard, but I’m very proud of how my teammates worked hard to come together after that.”

Throughout her basketball journey, Roberts believes her most important moments are the memories she has made with her teammates. 

“Even though basketball has been a big part of my life, it’s not what I’ve done on the court that defines me — it’s the friends, opportunities and memories I’ve made through this sport that defines who I am. Even though I’m grateful for the opportunity to play, I’m more grateful for the things I have because I played.” 

Off the court, Roberts gives back to the 501 through Crown Club — an all-girls club at Cabot High School that helps families in need. 

“Lesley carries our team in many ways,” Crowder wrote. “She led the team in picking and planning a Thanksgiving dinner for a less-fortunate family and Christmas gifts for families in need. [Through Crown Club] she helps clean up parks, visits nursing homes and helps with babysitting. She is a very respectful and caring individual that will do great in life.” 

After high school, the senior plans to pursue a degree in dentistry at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

“I had braces as a kid, and my orthodontist showed me how fun it can be to fix children’s smiles and make them happy. I think it’s a great job to help others.”

Roberts hopes her story inspires others to never give up — no matter the odds.

“God doesn’t give you challenges that you can’t handle,” Roberts said. “Even though I’ve experienced so many setbacks during my career, I always try to look at the positive side. Even though I’m injured now, I’m trying my hardest to make it back onto the floor with my girls, even if it’s for just one more quarter together. That hope is what’s keeping me going.” 

Cabot plays at North Little Rock at 6 p.m. Friday.