Robinson Picking Up Play in August
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | Aug. 19, 2010
August has been a great month for Ashley Robinson. The Seattle Storm's backup center has made the most of increased minutes and is playing her best basketball of the 2010 season during the month.
For Robinson, this kind of late-season surge is nothing new. Robinson picked up her game down the stretch each of the last three years, in each case due to opportunity. Injuries to starters Janell Burse and Lauren Jackson allowed Robinson to play more minutes in the past. This season, the Storm has been mostly healthy, but Robinson got the benefit of heavy action last week after the Storm clinched the WNBA's top regular-season record.
"I think Ashley's played pretty well," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "She gave us good minutes, obviously, down in Atlanta. She played real well in the second half in Connecticut and she gave us good minutes against Washington. I think she's working herself into the rotation."
Robinson's averages are up across the board. What is especially striking is the difference in her per-minute performance. Robinson has more than doubled her field-goal percentage (.600) and points per 40 minutes (9.9), while also dramatically improving her rebounds (11.5) and blocks per 40 minutes (4.8). The success has helped boost Robinson's confidence, always a major factor in her success.
"You can practice things all day long, you can talk about it all day long, but until you do it at 7:00 in front of fans, you don't believe in yourself until you prove it to yourself," she said. "I think I've proved it to myself and my team and maybe the coaches. Hopefully it keeps going."
Robinson's stretch of strong play began in the month's first game, at Minnesota. When Jackson injured her right thumb during the first half, Agler called on Robinson to start the second half. She played well enough to stay on the court when Jackson returned, grabbing seven rebounds.
Robinson was able to draw on that performance when she got a chance to play heavy minutes in the fourth quarter of the Storm's blowout win over Tulsa at KeyArena. She finished the game with 10 points, tying her career high, and six rebounds.
This past road trip represented an opportunity for Robinson and the Storm's other reserves to play more minutes than usual. She averaged 4.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in the three games, including a pair of three-block outings.
Teammate Sue Bird saw how much the playing time helped Robinson.
"It's hard when you don't know if you're going to get in the game," explained Bird. "You might play 10 minutes one game, not at all the next, and it can be very difficult to stay in rhythm. When you do go out there, you feel pressure because you want to produce in the short time you're there.
"I think the best thing about the last couple of games and how we've been able to play them is players like Ashley see the floor more. They get more comfortable, they get more confident. When she got in the last game against Minnesota, she was productive, she did well. I think it's from the confidence she was able to generate the previous three games."
While Robinson did not have a big game against the Lynx statistically, the Storm outscored Minnesota by three points with her on the floor in a game the team ended up winning by just four points.
"When you get those minutes and you get comfortable and you see how you can fit in and be semi-successful out there, it helps," agreed Robinson. "It's hard when you go from playing one minute, trying to do positive things in a small amount of minutes, but when you can stack up these minutes and stack up games getting minutes, it definitely helps."
From Agler's perspective, Robinson's success has been a combination of opportunity and how she has responded to it.
"I think it's also really accepting her role and having confidence that she's going to get her opportunity, knowing that it's going to come, and then playing within her limits," he said.
When she plays with confidence, Robinson can be a difference-maker at the defensive end. Among players with at least 200 minutes played, she leads the WNBA by blocking better than eight percent of opponent two-point attempts. That's the best block percentage of Robinson's career.
Agler envisions that skill proving useful for the Storm in the postseason, saying that Robinson will be part of the rotation depending on matchups. Tuesday's game was a good example. Robinson played 13 minutes while forward Jana Veselá did not see any playing time because Robinson has played well against Minnesota in the past.
For her part, Robinson just wants to keep this performance up.
"When you get your minutes, you want them to be positive minutes," she said. "I think they've been positive minutes."