Fri, 2016-06-10 05:00 News Staff
Strong senior seasons earn Cove hoopsters Robinson, Thomas college opportunities
By TJ MAXWELL
Copperas Cove seniors Devante Robinson and Malyk Thomas had to bide their time as several talented players blaze a path in front of them while they watched from the sidelines. Players like Cory Scott, Montre Williams and Rashard Odomes were big shoes to fill but the former middle school rivals thrived under the spotlight as senior teammates and shared the stage once more on Tuesday as each signed letters of intent to play basketball at the next level at their respective colleges.
“Both of the guys meant a whole lot to our program,” said head coach Billy White Jr. “They’ve both been on varsity since their sophomore year, are three-year lettermen and they’ve both played major roles those three years but each year their roles increased. These guys have definitely earned their keep.
“Both guys are also exceptional students in the classroom and that’s one of the reasons they have the opportunity to play at the next level.”
Robinson signed to play for Division II Northeastern State in Tahlequah, OK while Thomas signed to play basketball for NAIA Kansas Wesleyan in Salina, KS.
“It’s pretty cool,” Robinson said of sharing the moment with former rival turned friend and teammate. “I’ve known (Malyk) since elementary school. We went against each other in middle school then ended up playing with each other in middle school and played together throughout high school. He’s a close friend now and this was a nice moment to share with him.”
Robinson stood in a huge shadow, having to live up to the legacy of older brother Deion Robinson as well as follow up behind one of the best point guards in recent school history in Montre Williams.
Robinson originally chose his brother’s number but changed his mind right before the season began.
“He didn’t want to walk in Deion’s footsteps,” said White. “He wanted wear No. 10 and make a name for himself and he’s definitely done that.”
Robinson absorbed what knowledge he could from Williams in their brief time as teammates and is absorbing much more knowledge now that the two are teammates once again as members of the RiverHawks.
“It’s actually really cool,” said Robinson. “It’s something you don’t expect. After high school, everybody parts ways but it’s good knowing we can link back up still having that same connection we had in high school.
“It really feels good being able to further my career, especially going to a good school and joining Montre (Williams). I’ve been working out with him a lot this summer and he’s been giving me hints and stuff on the college level and what makes him so successful there. He has helped me out a lot. I feel like we could do well together.”
Robinson joins the RiverHawks under the leadership of second-year head coach Jason Tinsley where they posted a 7-20 record in Tinsley’s first year.
Having a teammate there helped Robinson make his decision but the team itself played a large part in Robinson’s selection.
“I like the way they play,” he said. “They play full-court man press ups, its fast-paced, the conference is a good one and the coach doesn’t go easy on anybody. He’s going to push me to be the best I can be. I know it’s a good coaching staff and a good program to be a part of to really grow and get better.”
Robinson wasn’t sure this moment would ever come with limited time as a sophomore and junior but a wake-up call during district play sparked him to a strong finish to his career.
“(It was) probably the Killeen game my junior year,” said Robinson. “The coaches sat me down and were like, ‘we need you to place with the energy we know you can play with.’ I came out in the first half with 15 crucial points that kept us with the lead. I eventually fouled out, but throughout the game, I was loud and intense. I ended up losing my voice and actually got sick from it. We ended up winning that game and I believe my energy kind of kept us in there.
“That was the turning point. I played pretty good from there on. It was kind of rough at first. That was my hump and I got over it.”
Thomas, who was voted the TOP Dawg and led the Dawgs in shooting percentage and rebounding as a senior, will play for the Coyotes and first year head coach Anthony Monson.
The quiet senior that let his play speak, along with the afore-mentioned players, helped reshape the legacy of the Cove basketball program from relative obscurity to perennial playoff contenders.
“If you say something to Malyk he’s just going to smile,” said White. “But, inside those lines, he’s a player to be reckoned with.”
Continuing the legacy was important for Thomas after watching those before him set the tone.
“It’s an honor,” Thomas said about his contribution to the program. “It’s not something you go through every day. Not everybody gets to be a part of something like that. It was fun. I enjoyed everything about it.”
“It was something special,” he said. “Especially being here when I was younger and seeing how it works. When it was finally my time, I just stepped up and did what I had to do.”
Thomas didn’t take long to figure out Kansas Wesleyan was the right place for him, but the distance from home will be an adjustment.
“I went on a visit and liked everything about it – the environment, the coaches, the teachers and everything about it,” he said. “(The distance from home) might be something to get used to but it will be alright after a while.”
Thomas knows the work is just beginning as the expectations grow along with the step-up in talent.
“I’m just working hard everyday trying to get better and working on my game,” he said.