Austin Robinson leads Meadowcreek in scoring (14.9 ppg) and is second on the team in rebounding (5.4 rpg), assists (1.8 apg) and steals (2.3 spg) so far this year. (Staff Photo: David Friedlander)
NORCROSS — Every high school basketball team has it’s “go-to” player — the player it most wants to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
Even on a team like Meadowcreek (10-9 overall, 5-6 in Region 7-AAAAAA) that has multiple players capable of filling that role on any given night, it’s nice to find one that has the combination of ability and reliability that can be that player night in and night out.
Austin Robinson fits that exact description, and it goes beyond the 6-foot-1 senior guard’s value to the team as the team’s scoring leader at 14.9 points per game, as well as one of the Mustangs’ leaders in rebounding (5.4 rpg), where he is second with fellow senior Anthony Jenkins and behind only freshman Rayshaun Hammonds, as well as assists (1.8 apg) and steals (2.3 spg), ranking second behind junior Adrian Hicks in both categories.
“Austin is one of our go-to players,” Meadowcreek coach Billy Davis said. “He was last year, too, but he’s grown up some this year. I’ve tried to tell him that he needs to be more than a basketball player. It’s one of those things that I’ve told him that if he’s not going to be a professional in basketball, he’s going to be a professional in something one day.
“He really has matured. He’s realized that he’s a senior, and this is his last year, so he needs to try to step up, and he’s trying to help the rest of his team step up.”
Robinson has definitely gained the confidence of his teammates this season, and not just for his numbers.
It’s a confidence he earned by coming up big for the Mustangs in some of the most clutch moments during their surprising late-season run a year ago.
The two biggest moments came in the week following Terrance Snelling’s 3-pointer as time expired that lifted Meadowcreek to an upset of state-ranked North Gwinnett in last season’s Region 7-AAAAAA tournament, which sent the Mustangs back to the state tournament after a two-year absence despite winning just seven games to that point.
Robinson matched Snelling’s feat with a 3-point buzzer-beater of his own to help Meadowcreek snatch another postseason upset victory over Collins Hill, and the region’s No. 3 seed with it.
Just days later, he came through again, this time with a key steal with second remaining and six consecutive free throws in overtime as the Mustangs recorded their first postseason victory in three years with 76-72 win over Chattahoochee.
Those two instances not only helped instill a confidence in Robinson from his teammates and coaches, but from himself, as well.
“Having the game in my hands late in the game, it’s a great feeling,” Robinson said. “(The Collins Hill game) was for seeding. I was very humbled for the opportunity. If you look for me, I’m going to win it.”
That has continued to be the case most of the time the Mustangs have looked to him in key moments this season, including coming up with important plays during their three wins in the Holiday Roundball Classic in Augusta over the holidays, as well as in perhaps the Mustangs’ signature win this season — a 73-67 win over then red-hot Duluth last week.
Those moments only highlight what Davis believes is the biggest improvement Robinson has made to his game this season despite the fact that his scoring is down slightly from last year.
“I’d say he’s more consistent this year,” Davis said. “Last year, he’d give you 20 points one night, and then give you nothing the next. But he’s matured a lot. He’s starting to bring it every night.
“Now, he does need to work on his defense a little more. He’ll definitely steal the ball a lot, but he’s still working on straight-up man defense. Once he gets that down, he’s really going to be a player.”
Robinson says he has taken Davis’ suggestion to heart, and has made it a point to work harder on his defense than he’s ever worked before.
And while his steal numbers are up slightly from a year ago, he knows his still has more work to do, and more to give for his teammates in the defensive end.
“(Defense) is always part of the game,” Robinson said. “Defense wins championships. And that’s what the college coaches look for.”
Robinson’s work on both ends of the court hasn’t gone unnoticed by coaches from several different college programs.
While he is still awaiting his first offer, strong mid-major programs like Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Kennesaw State and Alabama-Birmingham have begun to show interest.
“Some (program) are afraid of his size,” Davis said. “But this boy’s got the heart of a lion. He can compete against anybody.”
That competitiveness is something Robinson says he has worked hardest to have rub off on his teammates.
And it’s something he is beginning to see it night in and night out as the Mustangs try to stay in contention for a postseason berth while battling the likes of state powers Norcross and North Gwinnett, as well as other strong programs like Collins Hill, Duluth and Peachtree Ridge.
“We’ve got to be focused and tune ourselves in before (each) game,” Robinson said.