Eli Robinson followed the family line on Wednesday, signing with Air Force and a spot on coach Joe Scott’s basketball team.
But the path the Lewis-Palmer senior took to arrive at the same destination as his grandfather – a retired four-star general – and father was hardly a straight line.
Prior to arriving in Monument as a junior, Robinson spent his first two years of high school in Qatar. There was a basketball league in the school, mostly comprised of players not from the Middle East country, but the level of competition wasn’t the caliber that would likely have developed a college player.
“I don’t think there would have been a path in Qatar, at least right away,” said Eli’s father, Lt. Col. Matt Robinson, a 2003 Air Force graduate.
The Robinson family, which had also lived in Mississippi, Delaware, Alabama and Japan among other places in Eli’s lifetime, was then moved to Colorado, a spot it had targeted because it was close to family for Matt’s wife, Brook.
That set everything in motion for Eli’s basketball career.
The 6-foot-6 forward helped Lewis-Palmer to a state championship as a junior, scoring 19 points with 15 rebounds in the championship game. And he joined an AAU team, Pluto, that allowed him to face some of the nation’s top players.
“That combination is what allowed him, in a short period of time, to earn respect,” Matt Robinson said.
Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton described Robinson as a player who can set up in the paint and has a point guard’s mind (“he’s one of the top five passers I’ve ever coached,” Benton said).
Still, the decision on where to take those gifts beyond high school wasn’t made until a week before the Nov. 9 signing day. In the past two weeks Eli visited Black Hills State, CSU-Pueblo, Fort Lewis and Air Force. The Air Force offer came on Nov. 2. Robinson committed almost immediately.
“They didn’t put any pressure on me, but obviously it’s a factor,” Robinson said of his military-heavy family.
His father has long piloted C-17s in the Air Force and now flies T-53s out of the Air Force air field. His maternal grandfather, Robin Rand, is a retired four-star general and former commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.
Robinson participated in Lewis-Palmer’s signing ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. He was joined by baseball players Chance Hughson (Northland College) and Matt Roades (Concordia University), soccer player Rylee Cudney (Westminster College) and basketball player Courtney Auld (Kansas Wesleyan).
Coaches talked about each player in front of an auditorium full of families and fellow students. When it came to Benton’s turn, he talked about the gift of having a player like Robinson arrive in his program for his junior year and quickly assimilate into the culture of the team.
A background of frequent moves and playing in basketball leagues with varying degrees of competitiveness undoubtedly helped Robinson build that ability to fit in quickly. And starting next year, via the Air Force Prep School, he’ll start all over, only this time, for the first time, at a place with deep family ties.