Shakia Robinson is only a sophomore on the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, but she has earned a spot in the starting lineup thanks to her gritty play and consistent improvement each week.
“I just think she’s come so far,” UMass head coach Sharon Dawley said. “She’s just doing a great job. Her moves are getting better, her footwork is getting better, and when she struggles and misses an easy shot, it’s fatigue.”
Eight games into her second season with the Minutewomen, Robinson has quadrupled her point total from last year and is playing more minutes than ever before. Her play has steadily improved in every game thanks to her individual training in practice and on her own time.
“That’s stuff I’ve been working on since the summer as an individual and in preseason,” Robinson said. “It feels good to get down in the post and actually expose people with it. I’m working on my mid-range [jumper] right now, so hopefully I’ll be able to break that out next time too.”
In Sunday’s game against Boston College, Robinson tallied 25 points and 10 rebounds for the first double-double of her career and the third time she has eclipsed 20 points. She poured in 30 points against East Carolina last week, becoming just the sixth player in UMass history to do so.
“It feels good,” Robinson said. “But we lost the game, so I can’t really enjoy it too much. Maybe a little bit, but I’d rather have the win. I scored 30 in the other game [against East Carolina], so it’s not as big of a deal now.”
Dawley said that while she is impressed and pleased with Robinson’s game thus far, there are still ways for her to take her game to the next level.
“We’re going to continue to get her improving, specifically to her left,” Dawley said. “Once we get that tuned up, we’ll work on her mid-range jumper.”
Robinson’s 25-point performance against the Eagles was even more impressive because of who she was up against. BC has two players over 6-foot-4. Dawley calls them “the twin towers.”
“They were even bigger than I thought,” Robinson said. “I’ve seen 6-foot-6 before, but they seemed like they might have been 7-footers.”
To prepare for the Eagles’ dominant inside force, Robinson practiced against the tallest player on the UMass practice squad and tried to get herself mentally ready to face the tallest players she’s ever played against.
“I was playing against the biggest post player that we have in practice,” Robinson said. “There’s really no way to prepare completely for how tall they were. It’s more getting mentally prepared to get in front and box them out.”
Robinson is noticeably more physical and more confident this year compared to her freshman season, and she credits much of that to Dawley in her first season with the Minutewomen. The team as a whole is tougher and more intense, according to Robinson, and that comes from Dawley’s coaching style and attitude.
“I have a lot more fight this year,” Robinson said. “Last year I might not have been as upset after a loss, but this season I will not accept a loss. I think it’s showing in my stats too.”
Dawley is certainly pleased with Robinson’s quick start to her second season, and said she only sees things getting better for her in the future.
“I’m really impressed with her progress and her poise,” Dawley said. “I think she gets better every day.”
Michael Wood can be reached at email@example.com.