During a breakout rookie year, sophomore guard Keira Robinson set the single-season assists record by a freshman understanding that getting her teammates involved early and often would be a huge key to women’s basketball success.
The 5-foot-8 Columbia, South Carolina native, nicknamed “Ke,” excelled last year at passing the ball. A former four-time Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week winner, Robinson played all 32 games last year finishing third among the team’s top scorers by averaging 11.4 points per game. She led the team in assists per game (6.2) and was also the team leader in steals averaging 2.2 per game.
Now entering her second year as a Ram, Robinson says she is ready to take the necessary steps to emerge as a team leader. To do so, Robinson said she feels she will have to become more vocal on and off the floor as well as become more consistent in all phases of the game.
So far, head coach Beth O’Boyle has seen Robinson’s work ethic and accountability influence the team since first joining the Rams over the summer.
“I think one of the things that stands out about Ke is that she plays really hard and she gives it everything,” O’Boyle said. “She does a really good job of finishing at the rim and creating scoring opportunities for her teammates. So on the court, I think she’s definitely going to have a huge role for us.”
To become a better player under O’Boyle, Robinson first had to buy into the new system put in place, most notably the defensive switch from zone to man-to-man. Known for her assisting abilities, Robinson set a personal goal of improving her play on both sides of the ball.
“As far as on the court (I want to) keep my assists up, and be a better scorer,” Robinson said. “(Also) a big one for me was working on my defense and being a better defensive player.”
To better serve her team defensively, the former Student-Athlete Scholar Award winner at Keenan High school fully embraced the transition and feels her teammates have followed.
“Everyone’s buying into it and working hard,” Robinson said. “So I like it a lot actually. It makes you work harder and makes you not want to have anybody beat you off the dribble.”
Over the summer, the team practiced in the West Franklin Street gym, and it’s where assistant head coach Kate DeSorrento witnessed Robinson’s willingness to succeed.
“I think Ke has set a great example for her teammates by buying in to the individual workouts we did this summer,” DeSorrento said. “We did a lot of one-on-one work and it’s really exhausting. People don’t understand how tired you can get in 20-30 minutes but Ke really bought into that. And I think her skills have improved as a result of it.”
Last year, Robinson didn’t know she was on pace for a record-breaking season. And while she feels it’s an honor to be in the VCU record books, she feels she achieved the historic feat by simply playing her game since she’s always identified herself as a passer. To Ke, it’s not about individual records for herself, but rather what it takes to win as a team.
It’s that “whatever best for the team” attitude that keeps Robinson working hard when no one is watching she says. By shooting extra shots in the gym and becoming more vocal, she feels it will only help the team become better.
“I do talk way more than I did last year,” Robinson said. “When a teammate is down, I can be like ‘don’t worry about it’, (or) ‘pick it up, we got this’, (things) like that.”
While coaches may think differently, Robinson isn’t quite ready to anoint herself as team leader but feels strongly about her ability to become one in the near future. It’s something Robinson is ready to work on this season and beyond by first coming more consistent in her basketball routine.
Still early in O’Boyle’s tenure, Robinson praised how O’Boyle and her staff have been influential in her development as a player. While she understands that a coach’s job is to push their players, she appreciates the different approach the coaches take with the young team.
“They push us to get better,” Robinson said. “(And) they make it fun but at the same time make it challenging so we know what to do. They’re just better all around.”
As she continues the maturation process of being one the staples of the team moving forward, the soft spoken Robinson passionately declared the team will play like they have something to prove. Robinson wants fans of women’s basketball to know the team will live on after the departure of graduate Robyn Parks.
Even though the then-rookie guard class was heavily touted for their above-average play last season, Parks garnered most of the team’s attention as a two-time Atlantic 10 leading scorer and rebounder.
“We took the back seat but now it’s time for everytone else to step up to the plate,” Robinson said.
With the support of her coaches and implementing changes in her game, Robinson hopes to stand out this season as a go-to player for the Lady Rams in more ways than one by putting the team’s needs above her own and pushing her teammates to their full potential on and off the floor.
“I want people to know we have heart,” Robinson said. “We had a good season and we lost Robyn Parks, but that didn’t make our team. We’re going to win. We’re going to win a championship. I think that’ll make a statement.”
She may not be ready to say she’s a leader, but it’s statements like this that will make her emerge as one quicker than she anticipated.
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