By JOSEPH STASZEWSKI
Playing time didn’t always come at a premium for Karin Robinson at Positive Direction, a youth basketball league. As a 16-year-old, the Mary Louis senior played on a travel team with girls two years older than her and had to beg Coach JoAnn Arbitello to see the floor.
“She would always be one of the last ones to go in a basketball game and she would always be harassing me, ‘Coach Jo, can I go in? Can I go?’” Arbitello said. “She would really pull on my T-shirt until I put her in the game.”
Robinson admitted to getting slicker about it, sliding down the bench with each substitution in hopes that Arbitello would see her and put her in. At that age, the George Mason-bound guard was just happy to be on the team and had no hard feelings about sitting, learning and improving. In fact, it served as extra motivation.
“This was like my second home,” Robinson said. “If I wasn’t home, I was always in the gym. I always wanted to work out. I always wanted to better my game in some type of way so I could play, so I could prove that I knew how to play.”
She certainly did that and more — becoming the kid you wouldn’t be able to take out of a game.
The All-City first team selection by the New York Post matured into the public face of the Positive Direction girls’ travel program. With former teammates Geleisa George (American University) and Alexis Nicholas (College of the Holy Cross) in attendance at the program’s 20th anniversary banquet Saturday, Robinson didn’t expect her name and No. 21 to be called after Arbitello announced they were going to retire the jersey of former Christ the King star Maurice Barrow, who is now at Fairfield. They were both the first players to earn the honor and were unanimous selections.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I was actually thinking it was going to be someone else at first. Then when she said George Mason, I was like, ‘Wow.’ There have been so many great players before me. I thought they were going to be picked before me.”
It’s hard to argue with the level of success Robinson, who played on the varsity as a freshman, has reached. She led the Hilltoppers to the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I diocesan final the last three seasons and helped earn the program’s first-ever win over Christ the King this year. Robinson is a 1,000-point scorer and owns the Mary Louis single-game scoring record with 39 points against Bishop Ford. She can take over a game on both ends of the floor because of her ability to rebound and her strength in the lane.
“She brought the girls’ program to the forefront,” Arbitello said.
Much of that has to do with the hard work she put in. Robinson always wanted to be in the gym. She didn’t care if she had to play with girls or the boys. It was all basketball and all a chance for her to improve, no longer needing to tug on Arbitello’s shirt.
“It was impressive,” George said. “Her game really grew as we got older. It just fit her personality so well. You just knew she would be the type of player she is today.”