Roberts transferring from Baylor to Mississippi State

Updated: August 18, 2003, 9:43 PM ET

DALLAS -- Lawrence Roberts, Baylor's leading scorer and rebounder last season, is transferring to Mississippi State.

Roberts, a junior forward, on Monday became the first returning player to leave following the school's self-imposed probation over major NCAA violations uncovered during the investigation of the disappearance and death of player Patrick Dennehy.

Roberts told The Associated Press that he signed a letter of intent with the Bulldogs and faxed it to the school. He visited the Starkville, Miss., campus over the weekend and said he hoped to register this week for classes that begin Wednesday.

"It's tough to go through this ... to have trust in the coaching staff and build a foundation and then leave because of an incident that you have no part to do with," Roberts said by cell phone from Houston, where he lives. "I've kind of just moved ahead."

Mississippi State issued a news release late Monday confirming the signing of Roberts. Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Baylor launched an internal inquiry in July into possible NCAA violations, after allegations surfaced of improper payments to players following Dennehy's disappearance.

Coach Dave Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton resigned Aug. 8, the day the school placed itself on a two-year probation. As part of its self-imposed punishment, the school won't participate in any postseason tournaments next season, including the Big 12 tournament, and offered to release all players from their scholarships, allowing them to transfer to other schools.

Junior guards John Lucas III and Kenny Taylor have also asked for their release, as have sophomore forward Tommy Swanson and junior college transfer Harvey Thomas. Incoming freshman Tyrone Nelson, a center, is now going to Prairie View A&M.

Baylor's investigation is continuing, and all findings are being forwarded to the NCAA.

Roberts said he hadn't spoken to Bliss and is ready for a fresh start.

"It's a load off," said Roberts, who decided against a visit to Arizona.

Baylor has requested the NCAA waive the transfer rule that would require players leaving the program to sit out a year before they could play at another school. Roberts said he wasn't sure if he'd be able to play this season, but was willing to sit out a year if necessary.

If he's allowed to play this season, the 6-foot-9 Roberts -- who averaged 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds last season -- would fill a hole in the middle for Mississippi State. Mario Austin, the Bulldogs' top scorer and rebounder, decided to skip his senior season and was taken in the second round of the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls.

Mississippi State lost its top two recruits, 6-9 Travis Outlaw and 6-10 Jackie Butler, both McDonald's All-Americans as high school seniors last season. Outlaw made himself eligible for the draft and was taken in the first round by Portland, and Butler didn't qualify academically.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index