Born with broken ankle, Monmouth guard beating doubters

Feb 18, 2016 - 6:00 PM WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. (AP) In winning a plethora of awards while ranking among the nation's top 30 in scoring, Monmouth junior guard Justin Robinson has had to overcome a lot more than being 5-foot-8.

He also had to recover from a broken right ankle suffered at birth, and shrug off the sting of a Division III basketball coach laughing at his goal of playing Division I.

Robinson is having the last laugh. He is 26th in the nation and third in the MAAC with a 20.3 scoring average and he is seventh in the MAAC in assists (3.8).

Monmouth (22-5) has set a school record for victories, leads the conference at 14-2 and has an RPI of 35 after four wins over power conference teams in November and December.

The Lake Katrine, New York, player has won three MAAC Player of the Week awards and two Lou Henson National Player of the Week awards. He is on's Lou Henson Award Watch List for Division I's top mid-major player.

''I'm just focused on winning basketball games, and making sure the Monmouth University basketball team stays in the right direction,'' Robinson said. ''As far as the recognition, it will come, it will go.''

It just keeps coming for Robinson, who enhanced his magical season Friday by hitting a 3-point shot with 3.8 seconds left to give the Hawks a 79-78 win over Rider in a nationally televised game. Monmouth had rallied from 14 down with less than four minutes left.

''That's actually the first game-winning shot I ever hit in my career,'' he said. ''We were always either getting blown out or blowing teams out.''

Such exploits are impressive for any player, but take on added significance considering how Robinson entered the world.

''I came out feet first instead of head first, so something happened in there and I came out with a broken right ankle,'' Robinson said. ''I had a cast on it for a little while, so it slowed me down a little bit.''

Robinson wasn't expected to walk for at least 16 months, but was on his feet as a 1-year-old. He re-sprained it before age 5 but recovered, and the only indication anything was ever wrong is that his lower right leg is slightly smaller than the left.

''It's been fine,'' he said. ''My mother still has the cast. She keeps it in a baby box.''

Robinson began playing basketball at age 7 and became a four-year varsity starter at Kingston High School. Despite gaudy numbers, his size concerned recruiters.

While at a summer camp in Abington, Pennsylvania, prior to his senior year, he was approached by a Division III coach about playing. Robinson politely declined, saying he was hoping for a Division I offer.

''He kind of laughed at me and said I was a little over my head,'' Robinson said. ''I was like `Whatever.' I had the next game to get to.''

Interest came from Siena, Marist and Manhattan, but only Monmouth assistant Brian Reese (now head coach at Georgian Court) offered Robinson a scholarship. Justin held off on accepting until seeing if he was in good academic standing, and considered going the prep school route if not.

On April 12, 2013, exactly 17 years after breaking his ankle to start life, Robinson made a birthday commitment to the Hawks.

After averaging 7.1 points with 83 assists as a freshman, he improved to 13.4 and 120 last year. This season, Robinson is shooting 47 percent (177 of 377) and 43 percent (66 of 152) on 3-pointers.

Coach King Rice has helped Robinson stop being so hard on himself. The guard said that letting bad plays go and remaining confident has been his biggest growth, along with more strength due to strict weight training.

As for being 5-foot-8, that will never change.

''Everybody thinks because I'm small, I can't do this, I can't do that, so it's driven me,'' Robinson said. ''I just want to be someone kids could look at and say `If he did it, I could do it, too.' I just want kids to be confident and never let what anybody says get to their heads and try to keep them down.''

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