The point total doesn’t seem all that impressive, but Ghiavonni Robinson had been waiting to have a night like he had Monday at Texas Southern.
Before a national-television audience, the freshman starting guard for Arkansas-Pine Bluff scored 11 points, hitting 3 of 4 from three-point range and 2 of 2 free throws. It was only his fourth double-digit game of the season and it snapped a two-game scoreless streak.
“Most of all, it was confidence,” Robinson said. “I shot the ball with more confidence. I saw my first shot drop, so I kept shooting and it kept falling for me.”
There is a reason that Robinson has solidified his spot in the Golden Lions’ starting lineup from the third game of the season.
“(He brings) defense,” coach George Ivory said. “He hustles. He brings rebounds. He’s the third ball-handler behind Tevin (Hammond) and Marcel (Mosley). So, he brings a lot to the table.”
Despite his season stats — he averages 5.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game but shoots only 29.4 percent from the floor — Robinson talks about his role with plenty of confidence.
“For a freshman, I bring intensity and toughness to the team on defense,” said Robinson, who made four steals against Southern Methodist. “On defense, I talk to the team and let them know everything that’s going on, and I can score the ball, too. I’m a very good shooter.”
It’s that confidence Ivory wants Robinson to maintain as the Lions (4-15, 2-5 SWAC) try to break a five-game skid Saturday at home against Grambling State.
Robinson has scored in double figures four times this season, registering a season-high 16 points against Sam Houston State. But he went a combined 0 for 15 against Southern and Alcorn State at home and at Prairie View A&M — the three games prior to Monday. He hit two free throws against Southern, but didn’t score in his next two games.
He also went scoreless against Mississippi Valley State in his return to his home Leflore County, Miss., but scored 12 points his next time out at Alabama A&M.
“He can shoot and score,” Mosley said. “He’s got everything. We’ve just been telling him to be more patient and more comfortable on the court and don’t worry about it. It’s going to fall sooner or later.”
“I think he was stressing the last couple of games because he was missing shots,” Ivory said. “Sometimes, kids feel like they’re letting the team down when they’re missing shots. But we told him we’re going to be a team, regardless of whether we win or lose. We just told him to relax.”
Robinson was a big pickup for Ivory in the signing class of 2013. He averaged 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds per game as a senior at Leflore County High School, located in his hometown of Itta Bena.
Robinson was offered a full scholarship to Valley, but opted for UAPB as a new “venture” in his life.
“I learned about (UAPB) my senior year,” Robinson said. “Coach Ivory played at Valley and knew about the area, so he did a lot of recruiting down there.
He said one of his biggest adjustments to the college game has been playing without the ball. A 6-feet-3, he could play any position at Leflore County and was usually the go-to guy offensively.
“In high school, I had the ball in my hands scoring the ball, but now, I’m running off of more screens just playing without the ball,” he said.
He missed UAPB’s season opener against Tuskegee (Ala.) because of an issue with his transcript from another high school he attended that doesn’t sponsor athletics, according to Ivory. But he was cleared to play the following evening against Morehouse (Ga.) and scored three points.
Since then, he’s been a fixture in a starting lineup that otherwise tends to change game by game. He just wants to play every game with the same confidence he regained against Texas Southern.
“I’m going to keep working on my shot and working on my confidence and hopefully I can score every game from now on,” Robinson said.