Mount's Robinson not short on talent

Mount's Robinson not short on talent
Mount Saint Mary's guard Junior Robinson fights past Norfolk State's Jeff Short and LaTre'e Russell during the Mount's 67-64 overtime victory over Norfolk State Saturday, Dec. 13 in Emmitsburg. (DAVE MUNCHSTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

EMMITSBURG — Junior Robinson looked like a boy among men.

Part of that was because Mount St. Mary's was taking on Arizona, the No. 2 team in the country. The other part was because Robinson stands just 5-foot-5 and is the shortest player in all of NCAA Division I men's basketball.


It wasn't a great debut for the Mountaineers' freshman back on Nov. 14. Robinson didn't make any of his three shots from the field. Worse, he committed eight turnovers, often looking overmatched by the bigger, stronger, more-experienced Wildcats.

But as the schedule has gotten slightly easier and Robinson has gained more experience, the small freshman is making a much larger impact for the Mount.

"I'm starting to understand things a lot more," Robinson said after the Mountaineers' 67-64 win over Norfolk St. last Saturday. "What things work, what things don't work. What things will never work."

Robinson perhaps has started to realize it's much more difficult to make passes or get open looks because of his lack of size in college than it was at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane, North Carolina. While there, Robinson scored 2,228 points (17th in state history), had a school-record 515 assists, and made 554 free throws, third in North Carolina high school history.

The undersized point guard has begun to show that he can do some of those things at the Division I level. He had his first double-digit scoring output of the season against Norfolk St., going for 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

When the Mount was lacking offense late in the second half, Robinson demonstrated his ability to drive, splitting a double team by the Spartans and scoring on a finger roll, utilizing his 38-inch vertical and the speed that allows him to run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. Earlier, he showed his range, drilling a deep 3-pointer from NBA distance.

But this was after several outings where Robinson struggled, including shooting 3 for 12 on Nov. 19 against lowly University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, 1 for 9 against Seton Hall on Dec. 2, and 2 for 8 against Loyola on Dec. 6.

"Junior's been outstanding at being able to sit down and watch film and listen to what our coaches' criticisms are, or praises, and able to go and apply them directly into the game," Mount coach Jamion Christian said. "His growth is going to be very important to our team."

The advice that Christian and his staff have been giving Robinson is fairly simple.

"Coach tells me all the time, 'Attack the gap, attack the gap, stay aggressive,'" Robinson said.

Robinson is averaging 7.2 points through eight games, which ranks fourth on the team.

He may even get more looks to score when opposing defenses have to account for forward Andrew Smeathers, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Butler who will make his season debut on Saturday at American.

That could also bode well for Robinson's assist numbers, as the rookie point guard will have another top scoring threat to dish to. So far, Robinson is leading the team with 4.2 assists per game.

It hasn't been just Robinson giving the Mount a strong option at the point, however.


Sophomore Khalid Nwandu has provided 4.5 points per game coming off the bench and has also helped run the Mountaineers' fast-paced offense stemming from their "Mayhem" style of play.

Christian said he has been pleased with the productivity he's gotten from the position, and looks forward to having not one, but two capable point guards as Northeast Conference play draws nearer.

"We've got a really good combination at point guard for the first time in my time here," Christian said. "I'm excited about us being able to put two point guards on the floor that can dominate the game in different ways and we're going to try to keep putting our guys in position to do that."

Reach staff writer Jake Rill at 410-857-7875 or