Duquesne Dukes: April Robinson Adjusts To College Game; Leadership Role


Duquesne Dukes women’s basketball guard April Robinson is the 26th player in program history to score 1,000 points. Photo courtesy Stephen Pope

April Robinson remembers the first time she beat her father Jeffrey in a game of one-on-one.

Robinson was 10 years old when she got the victory although the competition did not necessarily end on the court.

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“We’re both competitive and hate to lose,” Robinson said. “I would always come home and tell my mom that I won and he would say he won. We’re a very competitive family. There’s been so many games, we would play five games in one day and then we’ll come out the next day,”

From those battles in Springfield, Virginia, Robinson has translated that success onto the bluff, where in her junior season she is the 26th player in Duquesne women’s basketball history to score 1,000 points.

At a young age Robinson was interested in basketball with her father teaching her. There was no limit to what he taught her and she still applies everything today.

“He’s taught me everything from IQ to watching film with me and telling me what I could do better,” said Robinson. “He always messes around with me and tells me he can shoot the ball better than I can. We would go out every day and just work on different things. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

The two also teamed together for AAU with her father as her coach.

“A lot of people would think I would hate having my dad as my coach because he would be harder on me, but he treated everyone the same,” Robinson said. “Of course I would hear it in the car, but I would rather play for him than everyone else.”

There was another sport that interested Robinson: soccer. Robinson played soccer at a young age and while not having a set position, enjoyed the challenge and the sport and as was the case in basketball she challenged herself to get better.

Ultimately, Robinson had to focus on one sport and sided with basketball, which pleased her father. Robinson still does watch soccer when the Olympics or World Cup are on.

“My dad was a men’s basketball high school coach and I’ve been in the gym ever since I can remember him coaching,” Robinson said. “One Christmas my parents got me a whole set of balls and ever since couldn’t keep a ball out of my hand.”

Robinson attended high school at West Springfield where she played under coach Bill Gibson. While there, Robinson made two final-four appearances and made one championship game as part of the Virginia state AAA Tournament.

“Without a doubt you don’t win if you don’t have a point guard. Point guards are what take you to the state playoffs,” Gibson said. “She was obviously the point guard that got us there a couple of times, so with her teams couldn’t press us. Her senior year the team we played pressed us all year and in the first quarter we went up 11-5 because they tried to press us and we got easy lay-ups from her and they took the press off.”

Gibson and Robinson’s father knew other well and it was a seamless adjustment into high school where Robinson teamed up with close friends Jordan Miller, Logan Battle as well as Amy Bergland.

“He always wanted what was best for you,” said Robinson. “If you weren’t performing at the best of your abilities he would be on your case. You could see his veins pop out and it wasn’t really anger, it was anger towards not knowing you are playing how you should. He was a very hard coach.”

West Springfield also was the high school attended by Kara Lawson, who has scored nearly 3,500 points in 11 WNBA seasons. Lawson also serves as an analyst for ESPN. Robinson’s father told his daughter to fill her shoes but the reply was always the same, “I want to be my own person”. Robinson did look up to Lawson and considers her to be her favorite player.

When it came time to decide what college she would attend, Robinson chose Duquesne because of then Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. On her visit, Robinson was admittedly quiet to where her teammates both former and current thought she was weird. Orsi Szecsi (Duquesne ’14) was the only player Robinson talked to and she was the only freshman coming in, so it made the transition harder for her.

In her freshman season, Robinson continued to be quiet, and when the team did a schedule promotional video her teammates called her “mute spittah”. She admitted to being intimidated by the girls who were both more experienced and taller than her and had a tough adjustment however as time passed so did she.

“I think I’ve kind of gotten away from that just by being more comfortable,” Robinson said. “By being a point guard they got on me for be so quiet and told me I needed to be more vocal and communicate. Now they can’t get me to shut up.”

Robinson was named to the 2013 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team and was named A-10 Rookie of the Week on three different occasions. She averaged 8.3 points per game. Additionally, she became much more comfortable with her surroundings as she learned from Jocelyn Floyd (Duquesne ’13) who holds the program record with 366 steals.

In the off-season though she had to overcome the loss of McConnell-Serio who accepted the Pitt Panthers women’s coaching job. McConnell-Serio announced the decision to her soon to be former players on Robinson’s birthday. The room quickly grew quiet.

“She came in and you kind of had a feeling because I believe we were supposed to lift and we got called into the media room and that’s where she told us,” said Robinson. “I was angry and really mad for a while, but you have to understand that if I was in her position, I would do the same thing.”

With McConnell-Serio taking the entire coaching staff to Oakland, Rachel Wojdowski was the lone holdover and took care of the team with the limited time the NCAA made available which was a few team dinners.

Just over two weeks after the aforementioned announcement, Dan Burt was announced as the new coach and returned back to the campus that he had served as an assistant for the six seasons prior.

Robinson and Burt did not interact much prior to the announcement as Burt worked with the post players and Robinson was a guard.

Referred to as the catalyst by Burt, Robinson saw improvements in points per game (10.8), rebounds per game (3.7), assists (126) and steals (51) and the relationship between the two significantly grew.

Coming into this season, Robinson had to take the ultimate step towards becoming a leader. With the self-proclaimed WO Show of Wumi Agunbiade and Szecsi both lost to graduation, it was Robinson who was expected to take that next step. Both Agunbiade and Szecsi spent the vast majority of last season’s minutes in the post which meant there would be a whole new front court.

“To be honest, I didn’t think we would be this successful just because we have a lot of inexperience and young players,” Robinson said. “I really do think playing Princeton, Syracuse and Green Bay really helped us grow as a team and get those players who are young to feel what it’s actually like to play Division I basketball. Deva’Nyar Workman, Liv (Bresnahan), Emile (Gronas), Belma (Nurkic), Amadea (Szamosi) and Jose (Ann Johnson) have all grown as players and that’s how we’ve become so successful.”

The team itself was picked in the preseason to finish seventh in the Atlantic-10, but following an overtime win against Richmond Wednesday, Duquesne is 18-8, 10-3 in conference play and also winners of its last seven games.

“I think with the way we’re playing right now there are many more games we can win as long as we keep the same focus and momentum,” said Robinson.

On Feb. 14 in a 69-49 at Massachusetts, Robinson scored her 1,000th career point. She also is averaging a career high 15.3 points per game and her 76 three point baskets are the most in a single season in program history.

“Ever since you’re young you want to achieve things and reach goals,” Robinson said. “My dad and I would always sit down and set goals. Being able to achieve it is a great feeling and it’s crazy because in high school I also got 1,000 points my junior year.”

Throughout her time playing basketball, Robinson has described herself the exact same way.

“I see myself as a leader wanting to get everyone involved, but also looking for opportunities to get a shot up,” Robinson said. “I feel as if you don’t want to be a one dimensional player, you want to have multiple skills. I can shoot the ball, so I see it that defenders can’t leave me open and help off of me to go to Jose. Having shooters helps other players down and low to get buckets and get going. I would say an all-around player looking to get success for the whole team.”

Gibson agreed with her characterization.

“She an unselfish player and I know how good she is,” said Gibson. “I’ve been fortunate to have a kid like that play for me and I’m not surprised or shocked by what she’s done. I wish she had a couple more inches to her, but she takes care of that with her smartness and IQ.”

Now Robinson is focused on one thing: winning an Atlantic 10 Championship. Currently the team is in third place in the conference behind George Washington and Dayton.

When playing, Robinson considers all of the advice her father has given her, but one thing always comes to mind.

“Play the game you know and don’t let the game play you,” Robinson said. “Play to the best of your ability and don’t go through the motions and let the game out do you. Do what you’re capable of doing, don’t try anything you’re uncomfortable doing. Keep pushing yourself and never let anyone think they’re better than you and always be the best. He’ll tell me every single game that if you get knocked down get back up and get back at it. put 100 percent into it or there is no reason to be on the court.”

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