WKU signee Robinson spends weekend in Bowling Green

Chalmette High School Senior Mitchell Robinson (23) attempts to score a basket in a game against Ballard High School on Sat. Feb. 11, 2017 at Bowling Green High School. The 7 foot 5-star recruit signed to WKU on Nov. 15, 2016. Brendan O’Hern/HERALD

Tyler Mansfield

WKU fans had the opportunity to get their first look at the future of their basketball program on Saturday, and they took advantage of the occasion.

Hilltopper fans filled Bowling Green High School’s gymnasium in excitement to watch consensus five-star,  7-foot center Mitchell Robinson play in the same city where he signed in November to continue his college career.

Robinson, who plays for Chalmette High School out of Chalmette, Louisiana, took on Ballard (Louisville) in the finale of the second annual Wes Strader Schoolboy Classic. Although his team suffered a 75-63 defeat, the future Hilltopper didn’t disappoint with 21 points, nine blocks and nine rebounds.

“It felt good to me because I’ve never been here before,” Robinson said following the game. “It was really thrilling to play for them.”

WKU Head Coach Rick Stansbury said during his weekly radio press conference it would be exciting to have Robinson play in Bowling Green.

“It’s good that he’s up here and people will see him play,” Stansbury said. “I think they’re playing a really good Ballard team. You’ll see with Mitchell, Mitchell’s all about potential with his ability, his ability to run, his ability to jump. He’s at about as high of a level as you can get with those two things. Offensively around the block he’s got to get better, but he’s got good skills, can face up and make shots.

“Then defensively at around that rim he can alter a lot of things. His ability to get out and run, his athleticism is really special. It’ll be good to have him up here … it’ll be good for him to watch us play.” 

Robinson, WKU’s highest-ranked signee in the modern recruiting service era and a McDonald’s All-American, had eight points and six blocks in the first half before exploding for 13 points in the third quarter. Robinson’s final two buckets were back-to-back alley-oop dunks that resulted with a standing ovation from the thousands of fans in attendance before as he went to the bench with a little over a minute remaining.

Robinson, who will join fellow 2017 WKU signees Josh Anderson and Lexington Paul Laurence Dunbar’s,  Taveion Hollingsworth this fall, entered Saturday’s contest averaging 24.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game for the Owls.

Ballard (22-5) held a 38-29 advantage at the break but Chalmette (19-10) cut the Bruins’ lead to three at 46-43 at the 2:25 mark of the third quarter after a pair of Robinson free-throws,  but that’s as close as Robinson and company would be able to get.

Ballard played tenacious defense throughout the contest and forced Chalmette’s guards into tough situations, as the Bruins racked up 16 steals on the day.

Not only did a WKU contingency from all ages show up to watch Robinson, but so did a couple of Hilltopper greats.

Jim McDaniels, who was considered one of the nation’s top high school recruits from Allen County-Scottsville High School in 1968 and was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball, sat courtside until halftime. McDaniels helped lead WKU to the Final Four in 1971 and currently shares the school’s all-time scoring record with now-New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee at 2,238 points.

Along with McDaniels, former WKU coach Jim Richards, who was at the helm from 1972-78, watched Robinson play as well as current WKU assistant coaches Quannas White and Shammond Williams. Williams is Robinson’s godfather and a big reason why he chose to come to WKU.

“Well, my godfather is over there [at WKU], so I know he’ll watch over me,” Robinson said.

On top of getting to play at BGHS, Robinson also got the chance to be in E.A. Diddle Arena twice. He and his teammates practiced in the venue on Friday night after arriving in Bowling Green and then attended the WKU vs. Marshall game on Saturday following their tilt with Ballard.

Sitting near the Topper bench at the game, Robinson received another standing ovation after he was announced over the P.A. system.

All in all, the WKU signee had a big weekend in Bowling Green.

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-935-0007 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @RealTMansfield.