Frank Robinson got the ball on the wing and dribbled down the middle. Dunk. A teammate stole the ball and made an alley-oop pass to Robinson. Dunk. From the wing, Robinson dribbled into the key. Dunk. On a fastbreak, Robinson caught an alley-oop pass. Dunk.
Six times in a junior varsity game last week against Van Nuys, the 6-foot-2 Robinson dunked. That's more dunks than some varsity teams get in two seasons. Classmates in the bleachers at Chatsworth High slapped high-fives.
Robinson has about as much business playing JV basketball as Shaquille O'Neal would playing for the Northridge Knights youth team.
He was the region's top sophomore last season, averaging 12.3 points and 11.2 rebounds for Littlerock's varsity, the Golden League co-champion.
Robinson lived with his grandmother in Palmdale when he decided to move to Granada Hills during the summer to live with Kimo Atkins, a family friend and club coach. He enrolled at Chatsworth, but under CIF rules, Robinson was declared ineligible to play varsity basketball for one year because he didn't move with his legal guardian.
He was denied a hardship waiver.
"I was very upset," Robinson said.
He could have returned to Littlerock, but basketball was not the reason for leaving. Robinson was 16, had no relationship with his father, little contact with his mother and worried about his future.
Atkins agreed to become his legal guardian.
"I really didn't have anyone to help me," Robinson said. "[My grandmother] took care of me for eight years. Now I look at Kimo as my father."
Atkins, 26, played basketball and football at Montclair Prep and has two brothers, Sean and Bryson, who were prep football standouts in the Valley. Atkins has provided Robinson with an environment that he hopes will allow him to make the most of his talent--on and off the court.
"We've had a lot of talks about being a strong young man and being a responsible person," Atkins said. "I try to teach him love. If you can't feel loved, you're life is a lot harder."
Robinson abides by strict rules. He must be home by 8 p.m. on weekdays, 10:30 p.m. on weekends. He rises at 4:30 a.m. during the week for a two-hour workout with Atkins. Doing homework comes before anything. Entering the final weeks of the first semester, he has five As and one B.
"I realize I need to have good grades to play basketball," he said.
Chatsworth JV games are more entertaining than many varsity games because of Robinson. He has scored 44, 47 and 55 points in games this season.
He considered playing in an adult league rather than on the JV team, but decided to use the year to learn the guard position. Because he's physically stronger than most JV players, it's questionable if he will improve playing at this level.
But Robinson's situation isn't unprecedented and won't necessarily hinder his chances of gaining a college scholarship.
The best example is Jaline Bradley, who was forced to play JV basketball at Channel Islands during the 1997-98 season because of the Oxnard Unified School District's strict transfer policy. She led Oxnard to the Southern Section Division I-AA championship as a sophomore, then transferred to Channel Islands. After a year of JV competition, she played on the varsity and received a scholarship to UCLA.
"If I could have stayed [at Littlerock], I would have stayed," Robinson said. "I have to make the most of everything. I try not to dwell on the past and keep looking forward."
Internet chat rooms provide excellent motivational material for athletes. Take the absurd comment on a Michigan football site about former Notre Dame High running back Justin Fargas, who's transferring after three years at Michigan:
"Let's face it, he was a horrible running back and kick returner. A track guy playing football who ran up big numbers in high school but was not ever going to be a great college running back."
Fargas, who came back this season from a devastating leg injury, should cut out the comment, paste it on his wall and make that Michigan fan eat his words in 2002 when he returns to the field, whether it be at USC, UCLA or California. . . .
The Mission-Marmonte League boys' basketball challenge scheduled for Jan. 6 at Crespi is looking very promising. The two featured night matchups are Notre Dame (5-0) against Thousand Oaks (6-2) and Simi Valley (8-0) against Crespi (6-2). . . .
A surprise in boys' basketball is 6-3 junior Sergei Lepiashinski of Reseda. He moved to the area this year from Belarus. He's averaging 25.4 points after 11 games, including a 47-point performance against Chatsworth when he made all 18 of his free throws.
"He's an unbelievable shooter," Coach Mike Wagner said. . . .
Kudos to football Coach Jon Mack of St. Bonaventure for agreeing to play Hart next season. It shows the Seraphs want to test themselves against the best. Hopefully, Fox Sports West 2 will televise the game matching two of the region's top running backs, Lorenzo Booker of St. Bonaventure and Tim Gregory of Hart. . . .
Finding a quality No. 2 pitcher is crucial for any baseball team with title aspirations. Chaminade is close to fulfilling that requirement with the emergence of 6-3 junior Sean Clark, a right-hander who threw four shutout innings against Loyola in a winter game last weekend. . . .
Former El Camino Real shortstop Conor Jackson is playing third base at California after making a positive impression during fall practice. He led the Golden Bears in hitting.
"He played very well and we're looking for him to start on opening day," Coach David Esquer said.
Outfielder Brian Horwitz from Crespi and shortstop Jeff Dragicevich from Westlake also could see action as freshmen for Cal. . . .
Stanford's basketball team is 18-0 when Harvard-Westlake grads Jason and Jarron Collins are in the lineup.
Eric Sondheimer's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.