Commentary

Stanford must aim to slow Robinson

Defensive stalwart Gold-Onwude could be Cardinal's answer to Sooners' All-American

Originally Published: April 3, 2010
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

SAN ANTONIO -- For the Oklahoma media guide, the Sooners took a photo of Danielle Robinson wearing a military helmet. Just to remind everybody that she really is much more than a skinny but wiry-strong, 5-foot-9 sprite that's here one second, zipping away the next.

[+] EnlargeDanielle Robinson
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerDanielle Robinson, who is averaging 16.6 points and 5.3 assists, was named to the prestigious 10-player State Farm All-America team Saturday.

Robinson is the floor "general," a junior so in sync with coach Sherri Coale that just a look, a nod, a hand signal or a word during a game can communicate all that they've talked about in countless hours of practices and watching video.

Robinson is a point guard not just because her body type fits the role, but because her brain and personality do, too.

"You have to know what makes other people go," Robinson said. "One important thing I've learned is you can't talk to everybody the same. Some people need to get yelled at -- and want to get yelled at -- in order to respond. Some people, you need to look them in the eye. Others you don't need to yell at.

"But all your teammates need to know you believe in them, regardless of the situation."

Robinson, a junior out of San Jose, Calif., has figured all these things out in her time in Norman, Okla., which has now resulted in a second consecutive trip to the Final Four. Last year, she was passing the ball a lot to Courtney and Ashley Paris. This year, they're gone … but Oklahoma has still reached the national semifinals. And that has a lot to do with how much Robinson has learned about being effective at running the show on the floor.

"It took a long time, really," she said. "I'm a junior, and I'm still growing and maturing as a leader."

This season, Robinson has averaged 16.6 points and 5.3 assists as the Sooners navigated a very difficult nonconference schedule and finished tied for second in the Big 12. Robinson was named to the 10-player State Farm All-America team Saturday.

When you go against someone like Danielle Robinson, you really have to be smart. You can't make mistakes reaching, getting too close, because she will burn you. The key is to know your speed, recognize hers, and try to stay at a pace where you're comfortable making a quick retreat step, as well as close enough to contest the shot if she takes it.

-- Stanford's Rosalyn Gold-Onwude

"She's had so much pressure on her, and she's handled it so well," said teammate Whitney Hand, who shared the backcourt with Robinson last year but is out this season because of a November ACL injury. "She knows everybody's position, what to do in every situation. She's put in her work film-wise.

"She's very outspoken. She's bold. She's not going to be afraid of how you feel, she'll tell you how it is. I think that's perfect for a point guard."

Stanford will be trying to slow Robinson as much as possible, and senior Rosalyn Gold-Onwude will take that task to heart.

"She's just our lock-down, No. 1 defender," Stanford's Kayla Pedersen said of Gold-Onwude. "You can count on her every night to do her best on who she's guarding."

Stanford guards Jeanette Pohlen and JJ Hones also will attempt to make things hard for Robinson, and so will Pedersen, the 6-foot-4 "roamer" who will use her height and fearlessness in taking charges.

"I have to be that second line of defense if she gets past Jeanette and Ros," Pedersen said. "And I have my size, so I can alter some shots that they might not be able to.

"Against everyone we play, some things don't change: I need to step in and help stop teams from getting to the basket. It helps knowing their plays and where they're going to be at certain times, so I can put myself in position to take charges. We always look to do that, no matter who the other team is."

Against Oklahoma and Robinson, though, it could be especially important. Robinson has been very durable and has started all but one game in her OU career. The Sooners are used to having her on the floor. It's not really the same team when she's on the bench.

"When you go against someone like Danielle Robinson, you really have to be smart," Gold-Onwude said. "You can't make mistakes reaching, getting too close, because she will burn you. The key is to know your speed, recognize hers, and try to stay at a pace where you're comfortable making a quick retreat step, as well as close enough to contest the shot if she takes it. She's a really dynamic player with the energy she brings to her team."

The Cardinal players say Robinson reminds them of Oregon's Nia Jackson, a speedy guard always looking to attack.

"She can just zoom down the court," Gold-Onwude said. "But Danielle brings a lot of other aspects to the game: her ability to pass and create, and also her defensive ability. Another player she's like from a team we played is Jasmine Thomas of Duke. I think having faced them is good preparation."

For Robinson, the matchup against Stanford -- a team she watched a lot growing up in the Bay Area -- does have special significance.

"I guess I could say it's somewhat of a personal thing for me, being from California," Robinson said. "I think that being raised so close to that program, I was such a fan of them. But I realized in high school, there are other things out there. And that's why I ended up at Oklahoma."

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.