'Cuyahoga Community College basketball is No. 1 Division II junior college program in the country'
By Branson Wright/The Plain Dealer | Native post
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Devon Robinson could not hide as he sat among an audience at the John Adams High School graduation in 2014.
Robinson's years of mischief and lack of focus in the classroom finally caught up with him. Robinson became a punchline while his classmates accepted their diplomas and all he could do was sulk.
"I didn't graduate from high school and it hurt," Robinson said. "I sat in the crowd watching my girlfriend and all of my other classmates get their diplomas and I felt terrible."
Over a two-year span after that, Robinson became a parent, joined the workforce, earned his GED, enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College and is now a member of the undefeated Tri-C basketball team that is ranked No. 1 in the nation in Division II Junior College Basketball.
Tri-C has been No. 1 for six consecutive weeks.
Better yet, Robinson is on track to graduate this spring and has signed to further his education and college basketball career at Division II California University of Pennsylvania.
Robinson's present and immediate future was not always clear, especially after he was not able to graduate with his class.
"I failed several times in my attempt to get my diploma," Robinson said. "I gave up for a time. During that period my girlfriend gave birth to my son. I got motivated and went to work but I knew all along working all of those odd jobs wasn't for me."
Robinson buckled down and earned his GED. He enrolled at Tri-C, joined the basketball team and shared in some early success as the team won 28 of 31 games last season. It was a fall season where Robinson maintained solid grades, but things started to spiral during last year's spring semester.
"Not having a job, not having any money and living with my mother at 21 years old started to wear on me," Robinson said. "I had to ask my mother and other people for money and it started to affect my pride."
Robinson returned to work in the spring and that meant less time working out and limited time with tutors and inconsistent studying.
Challengers coach Michael Duncan went into overdrive.
"He failed all of his classes because he was trying to work," said Duncan, who played on the 2004 Tri-C national championship team. "I let him have it."
Although Duncan contacted Robinson via text, his message was loud and clear.
"Coach told me that I could achieve higher than my job," Robinson said. "He chewed me out and said I could either transfer to another school or enroll in summer school to become eligible."
Memories of the 2014 graduation returned -- along with the pain.
"I could only think about my son and what kind of future I could provide for him," Robinson said. "My mom was disappointed. My grandmother was disappointed. I have an older brother who looks up to me because I have a chance to be the first person in my family to get a college degree ... I felt so bad that I disappointed so many people, including myself."
With financial help from his mother, Thenon Williams, Robinson enrolled in summer school to repair the previous academic damage. He transferred the fervor from his court game to the classroom. Robinson excelled in the summer. He said his GPA rose to 3.0.
"Devin is the face of this program for everything he's been through from not graduating from high school to having to get his GED," Duncan said. "I watched him grow into a dependable young man. He has his head on straight and I'm glad to see things working out for him."
The season has worked out especially well for Robinson and his teammates. Robinson averages 13.1 points per game. His 11.3 rebounds are sixth in the nation and his 3.4 steals are fifth. Robinson, a 6-3 forward, had a career night against conference rival Lorain Community College earlier this month when he scored 38 points, collected 14 rebounds, nine steals and five assists. His effort earned him National Junior College Athletic Association Player of the Week.
The Challengers (19-0 and 7-0 in the Ohio Community Athletic Conference) are also led by guard Larenz Thurman, who is fifth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (56 percent), and forward Quintin Dove, who is No. 9 in the country in field goal percentage (64.8 percent). Dove signed with Tennessee-Martin.
"We have four guys averaging in double figures, which means we want to make sure everyone has success on that floor and that everyone eats," said Duncan, last year's conference coach of the year. "We want everyone to have a piece of the pie."
So far, the season has been sweet, but Robinson is not taking anything for granted, especially since Tri-C lost in the conference championship last season.
"That loss lets you know that records and rankings don't mean a thing because you can lose at anytime," Robinson said. "That loss hurt and I've carried that into this season. It's my motivation."
But the biggest inspiration is the reason why Robinson is in school. His calendar is set for commencement on May 17 at the Wolstein Center.
"Growing up, I hated school but it was my mother who stayed up late when she had to work the next morning to make sure I'd get my work done," Robinson said. "So I know I'll break down when I see her while I'm walking on stage, because I know she'll be crying too."