AUSTIN, Texas — The lights, glamour and publicity that comes with entering the NCAA tournament is now shining on the Demons of Northwestern State as the No. 14 seed will face No. 3 seeded Florida Gators in the second round of the men’s college basketball South Regional on Friday in the Frank Erwin Center.
The Demons earned the Southland Conference’s automatic bid Saturday with a 68-66 victory over regular-season champion Stephen F. Austin.
They now put on Cinderella’s slippers for the big dance against the 26-7 Gators, the Southeastern Conference regular-season champions.
But with any successful production, there are people behind the scenes who do all the dirty work, making it happen to make the program a success. Patrick Robinson Jr., a 6-foot-5 forward from Christian Life Academy, has quietly worked behind the spotlight to aid the 23-8 Demons.
What Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy asks Robinson, who averages 3.7 points and 3.3 rebounds, to do for the team “doesn’t stat out” but he is always making plays.
McConathy said Robinson brings enthusiasm and most of the time is left guarding the opponent’s key offensive player.
“He brings so much energy to our team and has the ability to guard anyone from one to four,” said McConathy, who has coached for 30 seasons, the past 14 at Northwestern State. “He is the guy who influences or knocks the ball loose but may not get the actual steal on the stat sheet.”
Described as a rangy, tenacious defender, Robinson had a season-high 13 points in 18 minutes in a 102-52 rout of LeTourneau, a Division III program in Longview, Texas. He scored nine points against Louisiana Tech.
Northwestern State has led the nation in scoring, averaging 81 points per game since mid-January. Robinson is ranked ninth on the team in scoring, but his role as a defensive stopper is a far cry from his high school scoring sprees at Christian Life.
There, he was a two-time Class A first-team all-state selection and was on The Advocate’s “Dozen to Watch” list. Robinson’s senior season, he averaged 20.1 points and eight rebounds.
He led the Crusaders to four district titles, to the state semifinals his junior year and to the state title in 2010.
“In high school, it was easier to score because of the competition and the team that I was on, but my defense was overlooked,” Robinson said.“We had so many other guys who can score, but now I get to do what I do best and lock down.”
After seeing action in all 32 games last season, he started 24 games this season, averaging 18.3 minutes and collecting the team’s second-highest number of fouls with 65, which is not uncommon for a team’s designated defensive stopper.
One of Robinson’s assignments may be Florida’s Kenny Boynton, a 6-2 guard, or Mike Rosario, a 6-3 guard. Both are averaging 12.3 points per game and are among four Gators averaging double figures, including 6-10 forward Erik Murphy (12.6) and 6-9 center Patric Young (10.3).
“Our deal is, we normally have 10 people in rotation every three to four minutes and in the second half figure out who matches up. We just don’t go by what is on paper. Patrick with his ability enhances what we are able to do,” McConathy said.
Tyler Washington, a redshirt junior guard from Port Allen who is out this season recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, is one of Robinson’s best friends on the team and has known him since the eighth grade.
“He is fun to be around and a little goofy if you need a laugh,” Washington said. “He has unbelievable faith and talks to me and the team all the time, but he is all business on the court and a cool guy to be around off the court.”
McConathy said Robinson is talented outside of basketball, great in the community, and that he stepped into this role just by his energy, hustle and wanting to get on the floor.
“Everyone on this team has a role to play. Each year the roles change,” Robinson said.
Robinson is also one of the most active social-media members on the team. He said he is not the type to post hourly details of his daily life but that he mostly sends out motivational messages.
“It has been blowing up the last couple of days even from people that I don’t even know, wishing us good luck and sending us congratulations,” Robinson said.
“Right after the tournament, I saw I already had 46 notifications on Twitter.”
Robinson is a premed biology major and plans to become an orthodontist. He also knows what he wants to Tweet if Northwestern State upsets the Gators on Friday: “Thankful for the guys I have around me!”
Robinson said his father, Patrick Sr., works with the Dixon Correctional Institute and is a visiting minister based out of Hearts Ease Family Life Church.
His mother, Casetta, works with the Louisiana Department of Education.
He said that sometimes friends and family tease him about playing for the Demons.
“Mom always says that we are Demon Angels and that God knows,” Robinson said.
He hopes to be one to the Gators on Friday.