In his first year playing for the Higley high school boys basketball team, sophomore Shon Robinson had to make adjustments.
After transferring from the Chicago area, Robinson needed to adapt to a new school, new teammates and new temperatures. But even with all that change, the 15-year-old knew he and his family made the right decision.
“It was a better opportunity for me and my family,” Robinson said. “My mom just wanted something better for me and my little brothers and sisters.”
Robinson’s mother also got him on the court in the first place -- although he admits it might have been just to get him active and out of the house.
“When I first started playing basketball, (it) was like fourth grade,” Robinson said. “My mom just wanted me to do something besides play video games.”
Robinson, at 6-foot-9 and still growing, can appear to opposing players as somewhat of a video game caricature himself, with the extraordinary length and size to cause headaches for those opponents.
Robinson’s physical attributes help Higley space the floor, but he also has developed a smooth shot from outside the 3-point arc, a facet of his game that improved through hard work and dedication.
“Shooting has always been a struggle for me,” Robinson said. “When I first started playing basketball, I was shy to shoot the ball. I would never want to shoot.”
After watching highlight clips of other successful high school ballplayers, Robinson realized the 3-point shot was more important than ever in today’s game, so he hit the gym.
“(Shon) is a good kid,” said Higley head coach Jerome Joseph. “He’s willing to work, willing to learn. (He) wants to be better and has a great work ethic.”
Coach Joseph believes Robinson can keep improving at this rapid rate. “He’s a great, talented player right now,” Joseph said. “But in the next two years, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Robinson has already garnered scholarship offers from Florida State, DePaul, UTEP and Grand Canyon University. He also received offers from New Mexico and his home state of Illinois this week.
Now, Robinson is teamed with fellow sophomore Jason Harris, one of the most coveted prep athletes in Arizona, accumulating sixteen Division I scholarship offers between basketball and football. Harris, 247sports.com’s No. 3 ranked basketball player in Arizona for the 2020 class, was forced to sit out the first half of the season due to an Arizona Interscholastic Association in-state transfer rule.
With Harris and Robinson on the court together, Higley boasts a young core of premier players that can score from anywhere on the floor.
“With Shon, with Jason, they have the ability to post, they have the ability to shoot on the perimeter, they have the ability to put the ball on the floor,” Joseph said. “It makes the game and coaching a little bit easier with that type of skill, talent and height.”
Sophomore Jordan Flowers, who along with Robinson and Harris is playing his first year at Higley, said he believes after some work together, the three are flourishing at the perfect time.
“At first it was kind of hard, we argued a little bit,” Flowers said. “But towards the end of the year we started to come together and started playing as a team.”
It didn’t help that for more than half the season, Robinson, Harris and Flowers rarely saw time on the court together because of transfer rules. But Coach Joseph made sure his group was battle-tested before the state tournament.
Higley played tournament games in New York and even scheduled Findley Prep, the No. 1 ranked high school basketball team in Nevada and the only high school basketball program in the United States to play in every Dick’s National High School Tournament.
“In order to get better, you got to play the best,” Joseph said. “And they’re learning through that. Whether we win or lose – big margin, small margin – it’s just about that experience.”
Robinson knows intense competition improves his play. He played on one of Illinois’ premier AAU teams, Mac Irvin Fire, last year before coming to Arizona, a program filled with notable alums such as NBA players Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor.
Higley will play its first 4A state tournament game Friday, matching up against Saguaro, who beat the Knights 61-54 in their first meeting of the season. Higley played without Harris or Flowers in that game, but Robinson understands that this time it’s win or go home for his squad.
“It’s kill season,” Robinson said. “Kill or be killed.”