Basketball: Rockin’ Robinson on a roll

It wasn’t quite a scene from The Wire. But it was pretty close, hints Donald Robinson. Growing up 40 miles from Baltimore, raised as an only child by a single mother, the wrong kind of temptations lurked around every corner.

“There were some bad spots around my area,” he recalls. “I was fortunate to have a place to live. My Mom worked hard to keep a roof over my head and food to eat. It was just me and her. My father was only in and out of my life. But basketball really disciplined me a lot. Most of my friends went the other way. Basketball kept me out of trouble. That was my outlet.”

Glasgow Rocks’ rookie shooting guard has now swapped Maryland for wonderland, in the shape of the team’s new home at the Emirates Arena in the east end of the city. Built at a cost of £113 million ahead of the Commonwealth Games, the facility will stage its first sporting contest this afternoon when Robinson’s new employers host reigning British Basketball League champions, Newcastle Eagles.

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“It looks pretty nice,” declares Robinson, who has played in some of the grander American arenas. With a club-record crowd expected, and the chance to have a permanent practice base for the first time since the Rocks began life in Edinburgh 14 years ago, it is the start of a new era.

Their newcomer has undergone his own settling-in process in recent weeks since accepting Glasgow’s coach Sterling Davis’s offer to venture overseas. “This is what I’d always wanted,” he admits.

To adjust, he is sharing a house with the side’s veteran captain EJ Harrison, who has shared a decade’s worth of insight on coping with the rigours. “He’s also teaching me how to cook,” Robinson laughs. But he has not been short of advice on making it in the professional ranks.

“I have some friends who played overseas and they all said the same thing to me: ‘It’s not like being in college. You’re a pro. This is a business. This is a job. You have to go to work every day and give it your all.’ But it’s not taken the fun away from it. I don’t think it will. It’s great to be getting paid for what I love to do.”

Like Michael Jordan, Robinson once suffered the ignominy of being cut from his high school team. Failure was converted into a driving force, he states. Inspiration too came from his mother, Leslie, who urged him to follow his childhood dreams, attending all his games before he went off to university.

“She only got to make it to my very final game in college but she got to walk me out on to the floor,” he says. “She had a stroke two years ago which set her back so to have her there was so special. I do this for her.”

Doubtless, she will be following his exploits in Glasgow from afar. The Rocks remain among the more ambitious clubs in a league which is still struggling to re-invent itself after plummeting from its peak of a decade ago, hindered by the financial problems which have dogged a number of clubs.

Newcastle, who have already established an early lead in the standings, are the model to which all others aspire. They beat the Rocks two weeks ago on Tyneside and will be determined to spoil today’s party. Robinson, however, did not journey this far to fall short. “I really want to achieve something here,” he affirms. “I want my team to get a piece of silverware. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the Rocks.”