Sitting across the table at the Barclays Center during NEC media day, Mount St. Mary’s senior point guard Junior Robinson smirked. It was a smirk as if to say he knew the question I was about to ask. So I asked it.
“What have you done to succeed at the Division I level, being the shortest player in the nation at 5’5?”
For Robinson, it was a simple response.
“The biggest thing has been my heart and hard work,” he said. “Every single trainer and coach I had growing up told me I was only a Division II or III talent. That really motivated me to get me to the point where I am today.”
Robinson’s confidence has earned him plenty of accolades at The Mount as he enters his senior season. He is coming off of a junior year in which he helped guide The Mount to an NEC championship and earned second-team all-NEC honors along the way.
Robinson’s swagger and confidence has earned him the role as the leader of The Mount’s youthful roster this season. Seniors Greg Alexander and Chris Wray will join Robinson in the role as leaders.
That trio has made head coach Jamion Christian’s life easier.
“In practice I have even been calling them ‘coach,’” Christian said. “To have three guys like them as an extra set of eyes is special, and they have also dealt with success and failures in their careers which is important for leaders.”
The Mount lost a bevy of production from last year’s team, including first-team all-conference member Elijah Long, impact freshman Miles Wilson and big man Mawdo Sallah all to transfers.
Christian has built his reputation as a coach around “Mount Mayhem,” their uptempo style which forces turnovers and teams to run. With roster turnover happening frequently, it is important to find guys to fit the into the system.
“Roster turnover happens often, whether guys transfer or graduate. We have tried to recruit guys who fit into our system and believe in “Mayhem” from day one,” he said. “We look to recruit guys who are athletic and long who can get up and down the court. Another important thing is recruiting athletes who want to look for something bigger than themselves.”
As for Robinson, he has had to deal with the consistent turnover and figuring out how to play with a new core each year.
“At first dealing with roster turnover can be challenging,” he said. “But once you get to play with each other on the court more, you get to experience each others strengths and weaknesses. With the freshman, the more I have gotten to know them the more I have been able to motivate them.”
One thing that will be intriguing about this Mount St. Mary’s team is the length and athleticism that will go along with the defensive pressure Mount Mayhem brings.
“Guys like Junior, Greg and Chris are so athletic,” Christian said. “You have a guy like Chris who is 6’8 and can guard anybody, then you sprinkle in guys like Greg, Jonah Antonio and Omar Habwe and you have a group of guys that can get up and down well. I believe we will also be able to shoot the ball well.”
Mount St. Mary’s will also have options in the backcourt. Christian spoke about how Robinson has done a great job at bringing guys along at the guard position such as Miles Wilson and Elijah Long, and it appears to be the same this year. Freshman Donald Carey has been one freshman guard who developed under the tutelage of Robinson during the off season as well. James West and Jonah Antonio are other guards the Mount will look to as the season goes on.
Currently, The Mount is off to a slow start at 0-2 on the season, but those have been against two tough opponents in Marquette and Notre Dame. To no surprise really, The Mount’s scoring has been led by the trio of guards in Robinson, Carey, and Antonio. Freshman Bobby Planutis has been a bright spot in the frontcourt.
One development for this team as the season progresses will be its ability to hold onto the ball. Over two games, this team has committed 29 turnovers, which will not bode well regardless of the team you are playing. Another thing to keep in mind is that Chris Wray has not played yet as he is returning from an offseason injury.
Ultimately, Christian is excited about this year’s program and thanks the faculty and student body as a whole in terms of getting the program to where it is today (every NEC player I have asked says Knott arena is the hardest arena to play at in the NEC).
“We have so many people behind the scenes who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure we have a great fan experience, we are the only ones who often get credit for it as the product on the court,” Christian said. “But we have people who plan events, market the games and do so many of the small things. It all started with our president and has worked its way down, we just try to be appreciative of it and thankful to the people who do it. Everyone at The Mount feels a part of it.”