Pressure ‘D’ name of the game for new girls coach

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home’s girls basketball program is breaking new ground this year with an all-out defense that is designed to create turnovers and create a lot of offensive opportunities.

Coach Robby Robinson, in his first year at the helm, will have the girls pressing every second of the game, an aggressive strategy meant to keep larger opponents off balance and give the Huskies a chance to win.

He brings 37 years of coaching experience to the position and a penchant for turning teams around. The Sweet Home girls basketball program has struggled for nearly two decades.

After previous coaching stints in Colorado and Wyoming, Robinson has been in Oregon since 1986. He was head football coach at Woodburn, Silverton and Redmond. He assisted Sweet Home Athletic Director Kostanty Knurowski in coaching boys basketball at North Salem High School, where Robinson also coached softball.

Last year, in response to a request from Knurowski, he coached Sweet Home’s freshman boys basketball team.

This year Robinson is taking the helm of a Huskies team that returns a long list of veteran players, including seniors Megan Rubidoux, Annie Whitfield, Sarah Wyatt, Jasmin Yoder and juniors Sabrina Davis and Kendall Anderson. Yoder played her sophomore year but did not play last year.

Moving up from the junior varsity are Nicole Bell, who played varsity regularly last year, and Harley Brendle, who had limited varsity experience.

Also joining the varsity squad are freshman Jordan Miller and sophomore Mikala Steiner.

“They’re scrappers,” Robinson said. “They are meeting every day’s challenge of trying to improve.”

The Huskies are working on getting in shape for the grueling press they are planning.

“We’re pressing every second of the game,” Robinson said. “We want to pressure our opponents and become a team that’s trapping to create turnovers; and we’re going to use the turnovers to score points.”

The style is modeled some after the University of Oregon, with a goal to take a shot in eight seconds, Robinson said – no walking up the court and nothing in slow motion. The girls will press on a hit-or-miss scheme, making mismatches in height irrelevant for the shorter Huskies.

“Height is not important,” Robinson said. “That’s the only way we’re going to play and survive.”

The plan is defense-oriented, and offense will come out of it, Robinson said. “We’re going to shoot 30 threes a game. It’s all from the full-court press.”

He wants to see one pass and then a shot on its way to the hoop.

“We’re working incredibly hard,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to run full speed, full tilt, for 2 1/2 minutes.”

The team will work in shifts, five out and five in, he said. “It’s going to be fun to watch. It takes incredible conditioning to run at that pace.”

The team is going to throw the ball away running this defense and offense, he said, but as the girls keep at it, they’ll improve in holding on to the ball.

The Huskies are coming off being a noncompetitive program, Robinson said. He’s not much interested in talking about what the league is like.

Their goal is to approach each game with a winning mind-set.

“We want to win our first game – Stayton. We play Stayton Dec. 6. That’s our focus – nothing else. That’s all we’re talking about.”

The league is tough, Robinson said. Junction City is traditionally the top team, while Sisters is tough, but he believes his team can do something about them.

Stayton is from a traditionally tough conference, finishing near the top last year behind the defending state champion, Cascade.

“Our work is cut out for us.” Robinson said, adding that he believes in avoiding focus on the opponent and what the opponent is good at, what teams dread about the opponent. “In the newspaper article, don’t ask me. I don’t care about our opponents.”

Robinson wants his team to get those kinds of reputations, whether it’s a team of scrappers or three-point shooters. He wants to see other teams dread playing the Huskies.

“They’ve got to realize that pretty soon they’ve got to deal with Sweet Home’s pressure,” Robinson said. “We can’t care who we’re playing.”

If it’s Cascade, he said, the Huskies don’t care.

“You can’t win until you become competitive,” Robinson said. It’s not simply changing Xs and Os. Losing creates losing. That’s what he and his team have to fix, he said.

His team has a goal to do that.

“Every year, it’s going to be the same: Win our opener, make state playoffs and we want to go as far as we can,” Robinson said.

He wants to keep it fun, he said, and that means winning.

“The wrestling team has a lot of fun because they win,” Robinson said. This year’s football team had a lot of fun because it won games.

“We’ve got to stop the losing and create some wins. It takes just the will to keep pushing your body at that pace. It’s rare, so that’s what we’re looking for.”