EMMITSBURG — When Steve Lamont Robinson Jr. first reported for basketball practice at Mount St. Mary’s last summer, two big mysteries immediately evolved.
The first one was: How did a player this short (5-foot-5) wind up with a Division I basketball scholarship?
The second one was: What exactly is your name? Or what do you prefer to be called?
Well, the first one is pretty easy to explain and readily apparent to anyone who watches him. Robinson, or Junior, as he is known at Mount games and on the team’s roster, possesses elite athleticism.
His vertical leap measures close to 40 inches. He can dunk a basketball with two hands. He also runs the 40-yard dash in something close to 4.3 seconds and possesses all of the requisite basketball skills to play in Division I.
Mount coach Jamion Christian believes that if Junior was just a little bit taller, maybe something closer to 5-10, he’d be back home in North Carolina playing in the ACC.
“We were doing our vertical test today with our athletic trainer. He (measured) 33 and a half inches. That was just standing flat-footed,” said Kristijan Krajina, Junior’s 6-foot-11 senior teammate. “That’s pretty good.”
The mystery about his name is a bit more complex and enduring.
Christian calls him Junior, and that’s what most Mount fans know him as. His teammates call him by his real first name, Steve. In the myriad of articles that were written about his high school basketball career at Eastern Alamance in Mebane, North Carolina, he is referred to as Lamont.
If you ask Robinson what he prefers to be called, it really doesn’t matter. Whatever name you want to use, he says, “That’s fine with me.”
During the recruiting process, Christian was told that Robinson went by Junior by his AAU coaches. So Christian ran with it.
“There was a guy I knew called Junior who scored 2,200 points in high school,” Christian said. “So, I told him, ‘I think we should continue to call you Junior.’”
Robinson credits Christian for coining that nickname because he thought Junior sounded more explosive and tougher.
“You can’t be a 5-foot-5 guy with a name like Lamont,” Christian said. “Junior is a tough name. It’s like a boxer. I said, ‘That’s what we need you to be.’ We needed some emphasis.
“He tried to reinvent himself (with Lamont) like he was Prince. But he hasn’t done enough yet. He was trying to have an R&B name. But he’s got to be a vicious rapper.”
The basketball side of Junior’s life is a bit easier to understand.
His father, Steve, was a good athlete who stopped playing basketball after high school. His mother, Monica, went on to play for Elon University in north-central North Carolina.
When Junior was 4 years old, barely waist-high on his diminutive parents, he asked Steve to put up a basketball hoop in the driveway.
Steve obliged, and Junior spent many hours of his childhood honing his game, which eventually earned him that scholarship.
By age 9, he was suiting up for the local Amateur Athletic Union team in Mebane. By 14, he was embarking on a decorated high school career at Eastern Alamance. And by 18, he was starting the first game of his collegiate career at point guard for the Mount at then-No. 2 Arizona.
At Eastern Alamance, Robinson dropped jaws in gyms all across North Carolina with his amazing athleticism. Seeing a player that small throw down a dunk was a sight to behold.
“People were very amazed I could do that,” he said.
Robinson averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists as a high school senior. He was named to the Associated Press’ all-state team and the North Carolina basketball coaches’ all-state team.
Before he graduated, he finished as the 17th-leading scorer in North Carolina high school basketball history (2,228 points) and logged 554 made free throws, 515 assists and 262 made 3-pointers.
At the Mount, Robinson has started all 25 of the team’s games this season as a true freshman. He’s averaging 8.3 points and 3.3 assists per game while running the team’s offense efficiently enough.
His scoring has picked up in the second half of the season. In a Jan. 29 game at St. Francis Brooklyn, he finished with a season-high 22 points.
Most people can’t wait to see how good he will eventually be at the Mount.
“Man, this guy is short.” That’s what 6-9 junior forward Gregory Graves first thought when Robinson walked into the gym as his new teammate. But, like most people, his impression quickly changed.
“He could jump. He was very athletic. I was very impressed the first time I saw him,” Graves said. “He can shoot. He’s able to pass the ball very well and space the floor. He can make the smart plays.”
Notes: The Mountaineers (12-13, 8-6 Northeast Conference) will face one of the hottest teams in the league Thursday at Knott Arena. LIU Brooklyn has won four in a row and six of its past eight since a 61-54 home loss to the Mount on Jan. 17. Mount St. Mary’s rallied from a 21-point deficit in the first half to win that game at Barclays Center. “This is the time of year you want to be playing your best basketball,” Christian said. “On Thursday night, you are going to have two teams doing that.”