Texas A&M struck gold.
Blessed with a 37-inch vertical leap, unparalleled court vision and a lightning-quick first step, Mansfield Timberview point guard Alex Robinson could have signed with almost any basketball team in the country.
Florida State and Miami offered him. Baylor, Marquette, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt followed. Even Larry Brown and SMU came calling, even though they held a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 ranked point guard, Dallas Prime Prep’s Emmanuel Mudiay.
If life is about decisions, then we are the product of thousands of said decisions, both large and small, that we’ve made throughout our lives.
Robinson has made a habit of going against the grain, choosing instead to make key decisions based on things like honor and respect, regardless of perception. He is keenly aware that his choices can impact those around him.
It’s that maturity, that compassion, that has endeared Robinson to those in his inner circle. The same character he displayed when faced with personal tragedy as a 14-year-old freshman at Kennedale High School.
In July 2010, Robinson’s friend, Duncanville star basketball player Deion Jackson-Houston, was killed after his car was struck by a train at a crossing in rural Oklahoma. In the days that followed, Deion’s father, Stacy, struggled to come to terms with his son’s passing.
“Alex was the first kid to call me,” Stacy Houston said. “It was summer and we were doing our AAU thing and he would call me every day and ask me if I was doing OK. Keep in mind, this is a high school kid that is concerned about an adult.”
Weeks later, at a tournament in Las Vegas, Houston resumed his role as basketball coach of his son’s AAU team.
“Alex was playing in the same tournament,” Houston said. “And he came to every one of our games. He never came up to me, never told me he was there, but I saw him and he saw me. He was there to let me know he supported me. I’ve never told him this, but he’s the reason I was able to get through the death of my son those first two years.”
In 2011 Houston founded DJH5, an AAU basketball team in honor of his son.
Robinson, who was a freshman at the time, was starting to make a name for himself on the AAU circuit and some of the most connected teams in Texas had come calling.
For talented high school players looking to play at the next level, AAU summer basketball had almost become a mandatory step in the recruiting process. And for the country’s elite players, the AAU team they chose to play with was often just as important as the college they would eventually choose to sign with.
“[Alex] could’ve played for Team Texas, they had six or seven McDonald’s All Americans. He could have played for anybody he wanted to, they were all after him,” Houston said.
Instead, Robinson went against the grain. He chose honor.
“DJH5 was just a start-up,” Houston said. “He chose to help me build my organization in honor of my son. He didn’t have to do that, but he did it for me.”
So when college recruiters came calling, it came as no surprise to those who know Robinson best that he looked beyond the facade of tournament berths and conference standings, signing with Texas A&M, a program that had finished ninth and 11th in conference play the previous two seasons.
“I did a lot of research, talked to a lot of different people,” said Robinson, a straight-A student. “I’d get lots of letters, but I would get two or three handwritten letters from the A&M coaches every day.”
According to an interview Robinson gave to CBSsports.com in September, some recruiters went so far as to call into question his decision, pointing to A&M coach Billy Kennedy’s health as a potential issue. Kennedy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in October 2011.
Despite the attempts to dissuade him, Robinson stuck to his gut, relying on his instincts and trusting the connection he’d made with Kennedy.
“Coach Kennedy is a great man, and I just knew he was the right guy for me” Robinson said.
A&M had snatched away one of the most coveted point guards in the country — largely because they took the time to handwrite their recruiting letters.
Heading into his final high school game Wednesday night against Duncanville, Robinson (at 6-foot-1) was leading District 7-5A in scoring with 18 points per game, the same district that features two of the state’s top five teams: DeSoto and South Grand Prairie.
“His ability to run a team, his court vision and understanding of the game is something we value tremendously,” Timberview coach Duane Gregory said. “I think he’ll be the guy to go down [to A&M] and point their program in the right direction. The Reed Rowdies are going to love him.”
Houston grinned when pressed for his honest opinion regarding Robinson’s potential.
“I haven’t told Alex this, but I told Coach Kennedy,” Houston said. “ ‘Alex will be newcomer of the year as a freshman, no doubt in my mind. The way he makes decisions on the court, he sees the game two steps ahead of the average player.’ ”
The grin slips from Houston’s face.
“A&M is getting a lot more than a great basketball player, though,” he says. “They’re getting a great young man.”