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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Casey at the Bat: Walk-on has right attitude

    Ryan Caseyassistant sports editor
    Ryan Casey
    assistant sports editor

    It’s an amazing account of perseverance, positive attitudes, practices – and gum – but it’s one best told by the success story herself, sophomore walk-on to the women’s basketball team, Jessie Robinson.

    “”Last year, I played for a team called ‘Skked marks,'”” the forward said of her former intramural team with a smile as big as her home state of Colorado. “”It was fun. We went to regionals – almost made nationals, but yeah, we didn’t make it.

    “”I had always wanted to walk on, I just was always afraid to try. But then one day, I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to e-mail the coach, go try out, and if I don’t make it, I don’t make it.'””

    When she e-mailed Arizona assistant coach Todd Holthaus, who is responsible for the development of post players, the wheels in his head immediately started turning.

    “”She was from Highlands Ranch (Colorado),”” Holthaus said. “”Well, a few years ago, (her high school, Thunder Ridge) was one of the best teams in the nation.

    “”When she approached me, she just wanted to be a part of the team,”” he added. “”She missed basketball. She didn’t play last year and missed the camaraderie of being on the team.””

    So Holthaus gave Robinson a workout, and while she wasn’t going to jump right into the Wildcat lineup and start, her work ethic and positive attitude sold the first-year assistant.

    Twenty minutes into the workout, Holthaus came away thoroughly impressed.

    “”There’s a lot of people coming to my office wanting to be a walk-on,”” he said. “”But … there’s a bunch of hoops you have to jump through first.

    “”She was like, ‘OK coach, I got this done, now what do I do?’ ‘OK coach, I got this done, what do I do?'””

    Holthaus then talked with Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini, who wanted to be sure that Robinson would be able to accept the walk-on role.

    “”So many kids want to walk on, think they’re going to come in and play a lot or be the star,”” Bonvicini said. “”I mean, the odds of you playing are slim and none.””

    Robinson came to terms with that – “”She understood that walk-ons hardly play, if at all,”” Holthaus said – and was asked to walk on to the team just before the season.

    “”They pulled me in their office,”” Robinson said, looking around McKale Center as if trying to recall the exact moment to a tee, “”and they told me that I made the team. I was just in shock.

    “”I told my mom and she was crying – my parents were so excited – and I was crying. It just worked out.””

    No longer was Jessie Robinson an intramural player who stood out above the rest. She was a member of the Arizona women’s basketball team, joining her father, who walked on to the football team at Fort Lewis College, in her family’s lineage of walk-ons.

    Though those on her old team were sad to see her go –“”We wish she could come back, but we’re so happy for her,”” said junior Kelsey Adams, Robinson’s former Skked marks teammate – those on her new one have embraced her.

    “”She’s always encouraging,”” said freshman forward Whitney Fields, with whom Robinson will live next year. “”Off the court, she’s very outgoing. She’s always smiling, never mad.””

    Her skills are not limited to the court; Robinson actually has the hidden talent of singing. Before Nov. 26’s game against Utah, she delivered the national anthem.

    “”Ohhhh no,”” she said when the subject was brought up, burying her head in her lap. “”I messed up bad. People were probably like, ‘Don’t ever go out there again.'””

    But singing isn’t the half of it.

    Robinson said, “”For Christmas, in my stocking, I get gum. That’s all I ask for. I seriously chew like 100 pieces a week. It’s so bad. I love gum.

    “”I go to Costco and I get the Costco packs of gum,”” she continued. “”I’m going to have a gumball machine in my house. I love gum. I should be chewing some right now – I just spit it out for the interview.””

    Robinson’s teammates got the chance to encourage her for a change on Saturday when she saw her first in-game action in over two months with her mom in attendance no less.

    “”I was kind of thinking as the players went down (with fouls and injuries) that they might need me,”” she said after Saturday’s 90-64 loss to UCLA that saw her notch career highs in minutes (seven), rebounds (two) and steals (one). “”I had some teammates talking to me and saying, ‘If you just work hard and play hard, that’s all we can ask for.'””

    Though she isn’t your typical Division-I women’s basketball player, the route Robinson took to get there isn’t all that typical either.

    Suffice it to say, rising from intramurals to intercollegiate athletics, this walk-on sets an example for dreamers everywhere.

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