For a junior college basketball player, the transition to NCAA competition is a rigorous process with many adjustments that take place both on and off the court. UNCP senior forward Mary Robinson is taking it in stride.
Robinson, who is in her second season with UNCP after spending two years at Faulkner State Community College in Alabama, is all too familiar with the effort it takes to deal with higher expectation not only in terms of basketball, but academically as well.
“The work is obviously a lot easier at a junior college. To me, [community college] was a great transition from high school to college,” said Robinson. “It kind of had a high school feel to it but with a little more on-your-own adulthood.”
The junior college experience helped prepare Robinson for the challenges of college coursework, but adjusting to NCAA Division 2 basketball was a much different task.
“It’s on a totally different level,” said Robinson. “In junior college you are kind of your own star. When it comes to being at a four-year, the competition is higher, practices are a lot longer and harder. The physical demand is totally different, because it’s like you have a full time job.”
Some of the on-court challenges Robinson has faced include adjusting to the coaching styles of UNCP head coach John Haskins and the rest of the staff, as well as learning a defensive system that she was not previously familiar with.
Despite the adversity she experienced on her path to playing NCAA basketball, Robinson persevered and is a starter for the UNCP women’s basketball team.
Robinson, who lists WNBA greats Candace Parker and Maya Moore as her athletic role models, found out about UNCP through a junior college coach who happened to have a previous stint with the Braves.
Linda Pitts, whose 34-year coaching career includes a stop at UNCP, is currently at the helm of the Faulkner State Community College women’s basketball team. During Robinson’s time with FSCC, Pitts helped her find the right school to continue playing basketball.
“She knew I wanted to play in North Carolina,” said Robinson.
Pitts, who knew Haskins from her past experience in Pembroke, sent over Robinson’s tape. The coaching staff was impressed enough to offer Robinson a tryout, and ultimately a spot on the team.
Robinson now studies exercise sports science with a concentration in exercise physiology. She hopes to begin her career in the rehabilitation field, with a long term goal of working in occupational therapy and pediatrics.
For all of the junior college athletes who might be thinking about taking a path similar to hers, Robinson has some simple advice.
“Get a tutor or get help when you feel like you need it academically, and just have an open mind, make friends, get involved with the school…have fun, this is your last go-around, but definitely stay strong with your academics. Have fun, and make sure you stay out of trouble,” said