On Tuesday alongside Martin Hermannsson, Junior Robinson earned the first NEC Player of the Week award of his collegiate career, and deservedly so. The 5’5 sophomore was excellent in two pivotal home wins over Sacred Heart and Saint Francis University last week, averaging 23.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 3.5 apg while shooting 48.3% from the floor.
With the Mountaineers trailing by two with under a minute remaining versus Sacred Heart, Robinson rescued his team from an untimely four game losing streak by converting a go-ahead lay-up for the old fashioned three-point play. The Mount would hold on for the victory, allowing them to stay near the top of the crowded race for the regular season championship.
Robinson’s value was evident then, but the truth is the lightning quick point guard may actually be the most valuable offensive player on Jamion Christian’s deep roster, a roster that includes NEC preseason first team selections BK Ashe and Gregory Graves.
Balance has always been the hallmark of Christian’s Mayhem scheme, and this season is no different, yet in league play Robinson leads all Mount guards in KenPom’s offensive rating (106.3), possession rate (26.4%), effective field goal percentage (52.4%) and fouls drawn per 40 minutes (4.9). Sophomore Chris Wray and junior Will Miller, both forwards, may better him in a couple of those categories, yet they serve as role players, whereas Robinson lands in the NEC top 10 of possession rate. Furthermore, Mount St. Mary’s is 7-2 in league games where Junior Robinson posts a KenPom offensive rating of 100 or higher, illustrating the guard’s overall importance toward the success of the team.
Also consider this: Robinson performs at a higher level in contests that go down to the wire. When these type of games have five minutes or less remaining — there have been six such instances so far this NEC season — Robinson is averaging an impressive 30.2 points per 40 minutes, shooting 88.2% (15-17) from the charity stripe, and has yet to turn the ball over despite being asked to handle a majority of the late game possessions. This late game profile inspires flashbacks of former LIU Brooklyn star Jason Brickman in a sense. Robinson’s reliability at the free throw line, fantastic handle and unflappable demeanor gives Christian’s team an decided advantage down the stretch.
Under Christian’s scheme, of course, it’s never as simple as saying Player A is the difference between victory and defeat, because Mayhem relies on several integral pieces that must co-exist on the floor for optimal production. But a quick glance at the numbers suggests how valuable the diminutive guard is to the Mount. There’s a reason why Christian, amid a crowded rotation, plays Robinsons nearly 75% of the team’s minutes in league play.
- With Robinson on the floor: 102.1 points scored per 100 possessions
- With Robinson off the floor: 97.1 points scored per 100 possessions
Robinson’s elite speed and quickness force NEC opponents to make a brutal decision: lay back and give the 41.4% three-point shooter a chance to burn you from downtown, or crowd him on the perimeter and allow him to drive past you with dribble penetration.
Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina saw first hand what Robinson could do last Thursday. “They put him in a lot of ball screen action and he just creates a lot of different issues to deal with, because if you play him a certain way, he’ll pull up from three or he can drive by you,” Latina said. “He’s the quarterback of that team; there’s no question about it.”
While his offensive impact speaks for itself, Robinson has also made significant strides to become an above average defender, according to his coach. “Junior is important because of how he uses his speed and quickness to affect the dribbler and then I think he’s talented guarding guys off the ball,” Christian said. “A lot of times you’ll see with point guards is they’re good guarding on the ball but then when they get off the ball, they aren’t as good.”
By Christian’s estimates, the team’s defensive fortunes have improved as Robinson has matured into his second season, even if the numbers may not completely illustrate that at the moment.
- With Robinson on the floor: 94.6 points allowed per 100 possessions
- With Robinson off the floor: 93.2 points allowed per 100 possessions
More than anything, Ashe and Charles Glover’s presence on the floor is what helps the Mount stop opponents from scoring (the Mount is 6.7 points better per 100 possessions with Ashe playing on the defensive end). Nevertheless, the backcourt combination of Ashe, Glover and Robinson provides Christian with a truly unique backcourt of quickness, savvy and tenacity. Throw in some athletic rim protectors down low in Wray and Graves and you have a defense that leads the NEC in defensive efficiency (93.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) and turnover rate (24.6%).
Robinson’s skill set is simply a great fit for the players around him. “It’s a combination of [Junior’s] ability and also a combination of the guys he plays with,” Christian said. “You have to pick your poison there.”
The Mount’s rotation is deep and talented, there’s no doubt about that, but without the smallest guy on the floor in Robinson, the program likely wouldn’t find themselves in a first place tie at 9-5.
And Robinson’s days of being underrated may be coming to an end now that he has a NEC Player of the Week award under his belt. There surely will be more awards to come.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride