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After Biding Time, Robertson Thriving in Backcourt

Jan. 11, 2014

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

Kim Mulkey has a firm rule in dealing with potentially meddling parents: Don't ever ask me about playing time for your daughter.

So, what's a coach to do when her own daughter's minutes comes into question?

Coming into her senior season, Makenzie Robertson had averaged just 9.0 minutes per game and scored a combined 10 points in the eight NCAA Tournament games that her mom actually bothered putting her on the floor.

And lest you question Robertson's credentials coming into Baylor, she wasn't just riding in on her momma's coattails. This is an all-state guard and Super Centex Female Athlete of the Year at Midway High School, who won state championships in basketball, softball and volleyball.

"She knew coming in who was ahead of her," Mulkey said of Robertson, a 5-9 senior guard who has started every game this season for the seventh-ranked Lady Bears, averaging 7.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists. "She knew what her game was, what her strengths and weaknesses were. Quite honestly, the only thing I would say about the situation is maybe I didn't give her enough minutes. . . . I'm seeing things out of her now that had she been given extended minutes, she might have done. She's a player that grows on you and just does all the little things."

Not that she didn't want her around, obviously, but Mulkey did everything she could to get her daughter to consider all options. She had offers from SMU and Rice and had other schools contacting her.

"I tried for a long time to get her to go on visits, and she wouldn't do it," Mulkey said. "When I shut up was when she said, `Well, Mom, I've listened to you for years recruit and tell recruits don't waste coaches' money and time if you know you're not going there. I know I'm not going there.' So, I just said, `You know what, you're right.'''

That thought, though, was always there. Robertson was an outstanding high school player and certainly good enough to play collegiately, but would she be better off playing somewhere else, away from the long shadows cast by her mom?

Not only has Mulkey won a pair of national championships at Baylor, she was a great player in her own right, winning a pair of national titles at Louisiana Tech and an Olympic gold medal with USA Basketball.

"I think that was always in the back of my mind," said Robertson, who averaged 16.2 points and 5.0 rebounds as a senior at Midway and became the program's winningest player with a four-year record of 128-19. "Even though I wanted to be here, I might be better off somewhere else or get more playing time. But I wanted to play somewhere that would have a chance to win a championship and that would develop me as a player and make me better."

Having been around the Baylor program since she was 9, Robertson knew the answer. She was 13 years old when she climbed a ladder to join her mom and brother after the Lady Bears' 2005 national championship.

And even though she averaged just 1.8 points that season and logged only two minutes in the championship game against Notre Dame, Robertson still considers the 2012 national championship a "once-in-a-lifetime experience."

"The players and talent we had on that team was unbelievable," Robertson said of the perfect 40-0 season. "Just to be around them every day, and learn and just get better with them, was great."

As a teenage fan sitting in the stands at the 2005 championship, "you have no control over anything," Robertson said. "This was completely different. When it comes to actually being on the team - you're out there every day with them, helping them get better and contributing; you work for it - there's nothing better than working for something."

That's exactly the feeling Robertson is getting from her senior season. After playing nothing more than a bit role her first three years on the team, she has become a key member of the supporting cast, starting all 14 games and ranking second on the team with 28.1 minutes per game.

"Of course, I've always wanted to play this much and get the kind of playing time I did in high school and have always been used to," said Robertson, who also played on summer AAU teams with fellow senior Odyssey Sims and former Baylor All-American Brittney Griner. "I'm just playing a different role than I expected. I'm having to play a lot bigger than I am. A lot of the players I'm going against are bigger, so I'm having to figure out what I can do in those situations."

Along with Sims and sophomore point guard Niya Johnson, Robertson has been asked to help the Lady Bears on the boards. And she has done just that, grabbing 15 rebounds in an exhibition win over Palm Beach Atlantic and coming two points shy of a double-double with eight points and 10 boards in Wednesday's 78-62 win at West Virginia.

"Even in high school, I took a lot of pride in going in there and getting some boards," Robertson said. "So the fact that that's what we needed this year from the guards, I embraced it, because I like trying to get in there and fight for the ball."

"When the game's over, you're like, `Wow, she's just getting it done out there,''' Mulkey said.

Sims calls Robertson a "little jitter-bug. . . She likes to hustle and get rebounds. And she can shoot it. . . . She waited her turn and stepped up and has really taken on a role and is playing very well right now."

Robertson's importance to this year's team was never more evident than the Lady Bears' 133-130 four-overtime loss to Kentucky on Dec. 6 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

With Sims fouling out in the first overtime, Robertson stepped up in a huge way with career highs for points (23), assists (6) and steals (3) and a then career-high eight boards. She played all but three minutes of the exhausting 60-minute game, logging a school-record 57.

"I guess it was just the adrenaline pumping, but I don't think I really felt the exhaustion until the next day," said Robertson, who remembers walking up the stands at Floyd Casey Stadium after the football team's 30-10 win over Texas, thinking, "Holy cow, I'm exhausted."

Remarkably, that loss to Kentucky was just the sixth in the four-year careers of Robertson and Sims. That duo is 121-6 overall (.953), 54-1 in Big 12 regular-season games (.982) and a perfect 66-0 at the Ferrell Center, with a total of six Big 12 championships and the 2012 national championship to their credit.

"I still hate every one of them, and I feel like they're awful," Robertson said of her six losses at Baylor, including last year's 82-81 heartbreaker to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. "But the fact that I've only had that many, it's crazy. . . . I just absolutely hate to lose. That's just that competitiveness that I guess I get from my mom."

Robertson and the Lady Bears (13-1, 3-0) will try to extend their national-best 68-game home-court winning streak when they host TCU (11-4, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Led by sophomore guard Zahna Medley's 16.4-point average, the Horned Frogs have already matched last year's conference win total with a 65-54 road victory at Texas Tech and Wednesday's 52-50 win at home over Kansas, when they rallied from an 11-point deficit in the closing five minutes.

"(TCU coach) Jeff Mittie always gets the most out of his kids," Mulkey said. "We haven't seen a whole lot of zone this year, and they're committed to it. . . . We'll see a very disciplined team in the half court and a team that's still young, but that has a year of experience."

Baylor has to avoid looking ahead to Monday's highly anticipated 6 p.m. matchup against top-ranked Connecticut, which will be nationally televised by ESPN2.

"If I look at the UConn game as more important than TCU and the next conference game, then I'm not a very smart coach," Mulkey said. "Everybody wants to beat the No. 1 team in the country, and we'll fight and claw. But whether we win by two, by 10, get beat by 50, we're moving on, because we've got to take care of business in our conference."

Did you know?
Robertson, who graduated in December with a business marketing degree, has been a world traveler over the last two years. In summer 2012, she studied overseas in Baylor's European Business Seminar with stops in England, France, Italy, Germany and Austria that included Lloyd's of London, Buckingham Palace, Swarovski Crystal, IBM Italia and the Vatican Museum. "We wrote some papers, but we got to explore and go off and do what we wanted," she said. And then in May 2013, she traveled with the Baylor Sports Ministry team on a two-week mission trip to Ndola, Zambia, and Nairobi, Kenya. "It's hard to say it was a good experience, just because there was a lot of sadness," Robertson said. "But you do learn a lot about the world and about yourself, and I really got to develop my relationship with God."



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