All day, Stanford Robinson repeated the same four words to anyone who would listen: “I smell an upset.”
Not even Robinson himself knows where the notion came from, but on the morning of Jan. 19, the Findlay Prep (Nev.) senior guard vowed that Syracuse would upset Louisville, Butler would topple Gonzaga and Paul VI would knock off national power Montverde (Fla.) that night. Robinson took particular interest in the third game, one featuring a Paul VI team that he still calls his “brothers” after playing alongside them before transferring to Findlay this past offseason.
“When I found out Paul VI was playing Montverde, I was excited because I knew it would put them back on the national stage and that’s always been Paul VI’s — our — goal, to get national recognition,” Robinson said two weeks ago after Findlay Prep also took on Montverde at the Hoophall Classic. “So when I found out, I couldn’t stop thinking about the game.”
The pride in Robinson’s voice subtly mixes with a sense of accomplishment as he talks of that day. Just eight months ago, the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder was competing in summer league alongside Paul VI teammates like then-freshman Kevin Dorsey, who picked everything from Robinson’s brain to his uniform style.
Bonds such as this one, built over the course of three seasons at Paul VI, are what made waking up at 5 a.m. for a lengthy Metro trip from Landover to Fairfax worth Robinson’s while. They are also why the Panthers were initially floored when Robinson decided to transfer to Findlay in August.
“I looked up to him a lot and he’s one of the reasons why I am where I am now because he always pushed me in practice,” said Dorsey, who is now the Panthers’ starting point guard. “When I found out he was leaving, it was a shock.”
To most, the move didn’t add up. Why would the star-in-waiting at the defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and city champs leave to play in the shadow of other national recruits at Findlay’s basketball factory?
For Robinson, who is signed on to play at Indiana next year, the answer was simple — he wanted to conquer a new challenge.
“People thought it was a bad idea because they knew I’d be a star at PVI but really, I just wanted to win,” said Robinson, who is averaging 11.3 points for the Pilots. “I’m not worried about scoring 25 a night. I’m just trying to take everything I can from both situations and show people that Stanford Robinson is a winner.”
Perhaps that’s why Robinson felt particularly accomplished on Jan. 21. Two days earlier, Paul VI had made good on its former teammate’s prediction, as Dorsey nailed a buzzer-beater to knock off Montverde in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions final.
“I felt like I was a part of that win because PVI is still my family; those are still my boys,” said Robinson, who averaged 13.5 points and earned second team All-Met honors last year at Paul VI. “I texted Kevin and some of the coaches afterward because I was real excited for them.”
His excitement carried over to the Hoophall Classic, where Robinson helped his new team hand Montverde another loss, strengthening Findlay’s claim as the nation’s top squad. The senior guard finished with just two points, but his defense was instrumental in rallying the Pilots back from a double-digit deficit and further exciting his future college coach, Tom Crean, who was on hand for the game.
“You don’t uproot from a very good situation and move across the country to play ball if you don’t love the game, and Stanford loves the game,” Crean said afterward. “He’s a two-way player who has as much efficiency and energy on offense as he does on defense, and we’re excited to have him.”
With Robinson’s decision has come some adjustment. For the first week, the senior guard suffered insomnia as his body struggled to adjust to the new time zone. The dry heat of the summer and fall months took some getting used to as well.
But there’s one unexpected circumstance that Robinson is grateful to have encountered – an increased leadership role. With highly touted recruits Nigel Williams-Goss and Allerik Freeman on the Pilots, Robinson figured most of his teammates would look to them for guidance. Yet with a track record that includes success in the WCAC — arguably the nation’s toughest conference — and a commitment to one of the top college programs, Robinson has found that the harder he chases victory, so too will the spotlight pursue him.
“A lot of the players look up to Nigel, Al and I as leaders, so I’ve had to take on more of a leadership role than I thought I would,” Robinson said. “But that’s been great and shown me again that it’s not all about the points or being the star. It’s about getting better and helping the team win.”