Monmouth head coach King Rice stressed over the summer that even though Justin Robinson made first team All-MAAC last season, he had hardly reached his ceiling.
“I still think Justin Robinson is a better player than we saw last year,” Rice said back in the preseason. “I thought he had an incredible year, but he can still do more things.”
It appears that the 5’8” junior has taken that step. He ranks third in the conference in scoring with 20.8 ppg and has helped to lead the Hawks through unprecedented success for their program.
“I’ve taken a good step, but I know coach Rice still expects a lot more from me,” Robinson said. “Just trying to meet his expectations, even though that probably won’t be possible because he won’t ever fully be satisfied.”
To say that this year has been a breakout season for Robinson is an understatement. Entering Monday night, he had surpassed his point total from his sophomore year by three points, and he managed to blow that into the dust with a career-high 36 in their win at Siena. The 5’8” junior has surpassed his career highs in three-pointers made (55), two’s (100) and free throws made (114) and has at least eight regular season games before the MAAC tournament.
Of course with those three-pointers, he ranks second in the conference at 42.6%, but after each one you can see him ‘stir the pot’ and help get the Hawks bench as pumped up as they are.
“I got it from James Harden, but originally, I got the original idea from a rapper named Lil B,” Robinson said. “He did it in a couple of music videos, where he stirs the pot and he cooks it up and so you got to give the original credit to Lil B for making the dance up.”
Robinson’s play over the course of the AdvoCare Invitational, which earned him the MVP award for the event, but one reason why the Hawks have improved significantly is thanks to the addition of guards like Micah Seaborn (11.9 ppg) and Je’lon Hornbeak (8.2 ppg) around him as well as contributions from a bench that goes 10 deep at times.
“It’s a tremendous help,” Robinson said adding he felt he had more of a scoring role last season. “Now I’ve got Je’lon Hornbeak, Micah Seaborn, Josh James, Austin Tilghman, there’s four other guards that can handle the ball when I’m off the ball, so it can help me score and when I’m on the ball it can help them score.”
Robinson boasts just under a 2:1 assist to turnover rate, but the biggest improvement in his game has been the 5’8” guard’s ability to quickly turn his dribble into a shot.
“Just a lot of repetition, I worked over the summer a lot with coach [Duane] Woodward,” Robinson said on developing a quicker trigger. “And when coach [Jamal] Meeks got here, he had me in the gym a lot, just thinking of different aspects of the game, better footwork. Coach Rice had me thinking about different things, as far as getting my feet down getting the shot off quicker.”
The coaching staff has given Robinson plenty of responsibility since he stepped on the floor for the Hawks. As a sophomore he helped lead a seven game increase in wins for Rice’s program and earned a first team All-MAAC selection. Now he is likely one of the favorites for the Haggerty Award as well as MAAC Player of the Year, should he continue on his successful run. Robinson stands at 5’8”, but he understands the high expectations the coaches set for him and plays with a chip on his shoulder.
“I always feel like I’m better than the person across from me, whether it’s a ranked opponent or an unranked opponent and that’s just because I’m confident,” Robinson said. “I know who the better guards in the country are. I’m not going to take anything away from them, you can’t because they’re good, but if I’m across from them I’m going to feel that I’m better than them, just like they’re going to feel that they’re better than me.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.