SOUTH BEND – When South Bend Riley’s basketball team starts a workout or workout in the weight room, there are two things that are always certain: Isaiah Robinson’s phone will be on the lanyard. auxiliary, and you never know what songs it will play on.
“Some days I feel like country, a Luke Combs,” Robinson said. “Some days I would listen to Drake. He’s my favorite artist. And then another day I might feel Michael Jackson.”
Robinson’s versatile ear for music doesn’t always match his teammate’s tastes. He does what he can to make them grow with little dances to each song.
“The teammates the razz for that,” said Riley’s coach Alex Daniel. “But he’s sold there. He’s kind of an old soul.”
Robinson, a senior on Riley’s basketball team, is also a completely different person from the player who was the new kid on the block a year ago.
Robinson transferred to Riley from Concordia Lutheran (Fort Wayne) a year ago, ahead of his junior season. In the midst of a unique pandemic, he has had to carve out a role for himself among a new coach, new teammates and a new system.
It hasn’t always been easy. Her first few weeks at South Bend were a bit shy and distant. His role on the team started out on a smaller scale. Robinson sometimes doubted the process, but he stuck to it. Now, as a senior Wildcats leader, he is seeing the results.
“Last year I didn’t see a lot of people, I couldn’t really spread my wings and find friends who look like me,” said Robinson. “This year I’m really showing my true colors.”
Find your way
The start of Robinson’s transformation into the Riley program began at the Salvation Army Kroc Center. It was the hangout where Robinson played table tennis, picked up basketball games and lifted weights as his new teammates slowly got to know him more.
The pandemic has slowed down this process. But as soon as Robinson met more people, he started to take off.
“He was really shy at first,” said senior goalie Jayson Johnson, “(He) didn’t really speak and he just crawled into himself. He’s just a character. He’s awkward all the time. takes bad things and does it right. When we lift weights, he’s always standing, energized and listening to music. Being himself, always. “
Robinson’s teammates discovered that his favorite NBA players were Jrue Holiday and Kyrie Irving, due to his fondness for Duke basketball. Also that his bond with his father is as strong as anyone and pushes him onto the court.
“I grew up working hard with basketball,” he said. “Late at night, early in the morning. I always train. I’ve always been underdog, so just keeping that same mentality in high school pushes me to push myself.”
Robinson used this mentality when he joined a Riley squad with a core of eight seniors, led by Blake Wesley, now a freshman at Notre Dame.
Robinson’s talent was noticeable right away, but early in Riley’s career, his playing time was scarce. In three of Robinson’s first seven games, he failed to score. In three others, it was kept at six points or less.
“I felt like he was trying to prove a lot sooner,” Daniel said. “He felt a certain pressure to play and to do certain things, to play a certain way.”
But Robinson kept his head down, continued to work hard. He trained before and after training. He asked a lot of questions, wanting to know what he could do and how to do it.
“Eventually,” Daniel said, “those traits and habits came out on the pitch.”
Robinson was also adjusting to Dillon’s training style, which was a faster attack than the one he was leading at Concordia Lutheran. Daniel also insisted on a “locked” defense on every possession.
“It was a big difference,” said Robinson. “Once I got the hang of it, I got to see my game blossom.”
At the end of the year, Robinson, who averaged nearly six points per game in his first season at South Bend, went from a part-time rotation player to a guy Daniel needed on the field as the Wildcats raced through the sections. .
Hitting his stride
Robinson’s emergence at the end of last season was like a time bomb.
Some games, when the Wildcats were struggling to score outside of Wesley, Robinson came off the bench to give that boost. Towards the end of the year, he scored a high 18 points in a victory over LIghthouse College Prep Academy. He added a 10-point performance a few weeks later in a win over Bremen.
And heading towards the sectionals, Robinson hit his stride at the right time.
“I remember in the (South Bend) Adams game (Riley win 47-43) we had to have Isaiah on the pitch,” Daniel said.
In four playoff games, Robinson averaged just over five points, including nine points in Riley’s first division game against Michigan City.
As Robinson grew up on the pitch, he began to wear his emotions more on his sleeve. Following Riley’s sectional championship victory over the Eagles, the program’s first since 2018, Robinson hugged his coach with a big hug in midfield.
“He knew the part he had played was what he had worked for all year.” Daniel said.
Now one of the Wildcats’ leaders of the season, Robinson knows the role he must play for Riley in order to meet expectations.
“My experience just needs to come forward and show them what we need to do,” he said. “It’s going to be different. We’ve got a lot of away games this year so it’s going to be different, big crowds and everyone is yelling at you. Just knowing how people can be and telling the kids on that team to keep playing and don’t worry about what people say. “
What happens next?
At 6ft 1, the senior has a massive body that appears to be cut out for the college level. The college level remains to be determined.
Robinson currently has offerings from the Division-III and NAIA programs, including Great Lakes Christian, Hope College, and Sienna Heights, which have caught his attention because of the program similarities to what he has experienced so far in Riley.
“Demanding (of programs), but you know they’re just trying to get the best of you,” Robinson said of the offers he has received so far. “… Just knowing that if I went there it would be the system I would be in, it’s good to know that they care about wanting you to work.”
Robinson, who is a high grade point average student, is also working on a college scholarship program – and a possible visit opportunity at Purdue.
“Obviously for any kid who skips a level like this it will take time, but Isaiah is a worker,” Daniel said. “I know where he’ll end up, he’s going to get there and be in some place, anywhere, and work his tail, take the time and think about making himself and his team better.
“I have no doubt that wherever Isaiah ends up he will be a big factor in whatever program it is.”
Wherever Robinson finds himself, there is no doubt that he brings his strong taste for music and strives to improve with it.
This article originally appeared on the South Bend Tribune: Indiana High School Basketball How Isaiah Robinson Ended Up In Riley