Higgins wins its tournament, does good job slowing down Chalmette 7-footer Mitchell Robinson _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ROD WALKER -- Mitchell Robinson and the Chalmette Owls will be taklng on Bonnabel in a key District 8-5A game Tuesday night at Chalmette. Chalmette, 13-2, is No.7 in The New Orleans Advocate's Super 10 rankings, while eighth-ranked Bonnabel is 13-2.

Nearly every college basketball coach in the country has been hot on the trail of Chalmette High School 7-footer Mitchell Robinson since he announced his decommitment from Texas A&M in April.

But for Robinson — the Class of 2017’s No. 1 player in Louisiana and No. 15 in the nation, according to ESPN — his decision was all about going with the people that believed in him since the beginning.

So when he announced Wednesday that he was following former Aggies assistant coach Rick Stansbury to his new job and committing to play at Western Kentucky, some were surprised, but Chalmette coach Butch Stockton wasn’t one of them.

“Stansbury was one of the first coaches to ever recruit Mitch, and he knows Stansbury believes in him as a player,” Stockton said. “He wanted to go somewhere where he trusted the coaching staff, and I think that’s the guy he trusts the most.”

Robinson stormed onto the scene in Louisiana during his first season at Chalmette, averaging 20.1 points, 12.8 rebounds and 8.5 blocks after transferring from Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Florida.

The big man racked up all-state and All-Metro accolades on his way to leading the Owls to a 23-8 record and their second trip to the postseason since 2007.

Robinson dominated opponents with his rare combination of size and athleticism, and Stockton said his mere presence brought new life to the Chalmette program.

“When a guy like that comes to the program, it makes everyone take the game more seriously and work even harder, because you know he gives you a chance to win on any night,” Stockton said. “He gave us a really tough mentality on defense, especially on the inside. That gave our guys on the perimeter more confidence to be aggressive because they knew he could cover up their mistakes.”

While Robinson’s frame makes him nearly unstoppable around the basket at the high school level, Stockton said his value on the college level will come from his versatility on both ends of the floor.

Along with his high-flying dunks and ferocious blocks, Robinson has displayed the ability to shoot 3-pointers and guard opponents on the perimeter. So while it was difficult for him to overlook schools like North Carolina, Oklahoma and LSU, when Stansbury took over as the new head coach at Western Kentucky, Robinson said that was the best place for him to display his skill set.

“I think it’s pretty obvious when he goes to college that he’s going to provide that defensive tenacity around the rim,” Stockton said. “But he trusts Stansbury because he’s going to allow Mitch to play in an up-tempo system that shows off everything he can do, and he thinks Stansbury will really be able to get everything he can out of him.”