Clint Robinson didn’t come to this country with hoop dreams. If anything, the lanky teenager figured he might try out for the C.H. Flowers soccer team in 2010, building on the skills he had honed on the pitch nearly every day in his native Jamaica.
Robinson had never touched a basketball when Billy Lanier stopped the 6-foot-3 freshman in a hallway at the Springdale public school and invited him to tryouts, but the coach’s confidence proved to be a powerful motivator. As the Jaguars prepared for that season, Robinson dove headlong into a trial-by-fire introduction to the game.
“All I was doing was running the floor and blocking shots,” Robinson said with a chuckle. “That’s all I really knew how to do.”
Not even three years later, Robinson has blossomed into a 6-foot-7, 220-pound rising senior forward and one of the area’s rapidly emerging prospects. During a strong run this summer, he’s showcased improved face-up skills on offense, adding a dimension to his game beyond the length and athleticism that college coaches covet.
With five Division I scholarship offers in hand and more suitors seemingly emerging with each live recruiting period, Robinson is poised to turn his newfound skills on the hardwood into a free college education.
“You could always see there was something there,” said current C.H. Flowers Coach Mark Edwards, an assistant to Lanier in 2010. “Some guys just have a natural feel for the game. … He’s always been an easy kid to coach. It’s been pretty incredible to watch.”
Robinson, 18, believes his days spent as a defender on the soccer field under the Caribbean sun helped lay the base for the stamina and footwork needed for his new sport, but that’s just part of the explanation for his quick rise since moving to Hyattsville from Montego Bay with his mother Claudin Blair and younger brother Akeem.
At the beginning, Robinson only took up Lanier’s suggestion to attend tryouts after consulting with his mother. Blair knew little about the game but understood its power as a pathway to college and encouraged him to give it a chance. (She’s now a regular in the stands at Robinson’s games, and he calls her “my biggest supporter.”)
Within weeks of joining the Jaguars, Robinson began separating himself from classmates who had grown up on the game. At times, his uncommon wingspan and hustle made up for his lack of on-court experience.
Robinson earned a promotion to the varsity squad just a few months into his career and became a part-time starter as a sophomore. He never did go out for the soccer team.
Last year, Robinson emerged as one of the team’s top players, a force on both ends as C.H. Flowers finished in the top half of the Prince George’s 4A standings.
He averaged more than 11 points per game to finish second in scoring behind Howard University-bound guard Kofi Andoh and earned his first scholarship offer from the Bison soon after the season.
“It’s part of the natural progression,” Edwards said. “Everybody understands his best basketball is ahead of him.”
Even after his breakout junior campaign, Robinson wasn’t satisfied. He felt he’d been pushed around too much in the paint against elite competition, and he’s worked to add bulk.
He meets with Shawn Harmon, an assistant for his AAU team Virginia Assault, three times per week for a regimen that includes miles on the track, explosive running drills and push-ups. He said he’s packed on 10 pounds of muscle since the beginning of the high school season.
The results have been impressive: He averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per game in DeMatha’s BSN Sports Elite Summer League and has added offers from North Carolina-Greensboro, Mount St. Mary’s, Towson and Austin Peay in recent weeks. He also claims interest from Drexel, VCU, High Point and James Madison, among others.
Robinson heads toward his senior season determined to improve his ball handling and outside shooting. He’d like to get more consistent with his 15-foot jumper and keep extending his range.
After an impressive showing at the Peach State Summer Showcase last weekend that netted the offer from Austin Peay, the forward is slated to participate in the invitational-only Big Shots All-American Camp at DeMatha, beginning Thursday. It’s another chance to showcase his progress for recruiters and move closer to his goal of continuing his career in college.
“It means a lot actually to see the progress that I’ve made since ninth grade to where I am right now,” Robinson said. “To see what me and my mom wanted actually coming true means a lot to both of us.”