Milligan College head basketball coach Bill Robinson looked in-house for his latest recruit.
He was literally just a few rooms away as coach Robinson went after the leading scorer and rebounder on an Elizabethton team which came up just short of qualifying for the TSSAA Class AA state championship tournament
That player was 6-foot-5 Will Robinson, who averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game, and who you might guess is the son of the Milligan coach.
“It’s something we talked about since he was little,” coach Robinson said. “We wanted him to experience the recruiting process and to see what he wanted. We obviously wanted him to be close to home, but he had to follow his dreams too. He wanted to go through the season and see who was interested, but I think all along his heart was here at Milligan.”
Despite the relationship, the coach insisted his son be treated like anyone else, making the same visit as any other potential recruit. The big difference was once he actually signed with the Buffs the coach posed at the table with the player instead of in the background.
However, the process was surreal whenever other coaches would pay a visit to recruit his own son.
“Inside, it was very difficult,” Robinson said. “Obviously, it was great to have people interested in him. Then you know there’s some kind of confirmation that he’s gotten the attention and he’s able to play at the next level. At the same time, the thought of having him play for someone else that wasn’t something I wanted to think about.”
Coaching one’s son is nothing new in the college ranks. There were the cases with Bruce and Steven Pearl, and Wade and Allen Houston at the University of Tennessee, as well as current East Tennessee State coach Murry Bartow playing for his father Gene at UAB.
Other times, basketball coaches have been forced to coach against their son’s team. That was the case recently for Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who despite his team winning 90-78 over the New Orleans Hornets, admitted he didn’t enjoy coaching against son Austin.
Robinson is happy he’s part of the first group and won’t be facing that dilema.
“You don’t want to coach against your son, and I’m sure the Harbaughs are like you don’t want to coach against your brother either,” Robinson said. “I’ve had a little bit of experience coaching Will with the summer team at the (Smoky Mountain Sports) Complex. It’s not like we haven’t tried it before.
“If we had tried it and it hadn’t been successful, we may have gone different paths. But to play and compete and talk about it afterwards, it was something we both enjoyed. Hopefully, we’ll have four years of that.”
At the college level, however, there is expectations for Will to produce and not just have a spot on the team simply because he’s the coach’s son.
His father believes he will bring some good qualities to a Buffalo team which finished 18-13 this season.
“Will’s a really smart player,” coach Robinson said. “He understands the game since he’s been around the game his whole life. He knows where he’s supposed to be, where the ball is supposed to go. He understands offenses and defenses.
“It’s up to him the next 3-4 months how he’s going to catch up athletically. He’s big and strong in high school, but he’s not big and strong compared to the guys at the college level. But, he’s been motivated, working on his game every day, getting stronger and conditioning. I could see him being an in-the-rotation guy right away.”
The Milligan baseball team is 11-14 following Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss at Roanoke College.
Sophomore third baseman Sam Tarlton scored the Buffs’ only run after a RBI walk by Brandon Malone. Luke Kirk led Milligan at the plate going 2-for-3.
For the season, Tarlton has been leading the way for the Buffs. The former David Crockett standout has a .402 batting average with 33 hits in 82 at-bats. In addition, he has proven to be smart at the plate with nine walks against eight strikeouts.
Senior Cody Hyder leads the team with seven stolen bases on seven attempts. His aggressive base running has led to the former Happy Valley star scoring 14 runs in just 35 at-bats.
The Buffs head to Pulaski today for a three-game series at Martin Methodist.
The Milligan College women’s tennis team moved its home match against Appalachian Athletic Conference foe Columbia (S.C.) College from today to Saturday.
The Lady Buffs (9-1) are currently ranked 25th in the NAIA Women’s Tennis Coaches Poll. The match against the Fighting Koalas will be their AAC opener.
Junior Kayla Kelly, along with sophomore Sarah Rainwater and freshmen Grace Sarver and Rachel Hodas have been some of the standouts for third-year head coach Ryan Reynolds.
Reynolds, a member of Science Hill’s 2002 state championship team, is building quite a program on the ladies’ side with two straight AAC championships. The men’s team isn’t off to as strong of a start at 3-6, although the early record has come against tough competition.
Sunday will be a busy day for Reynolds and his staff as both the men’s and women’s squads will face Tennessee Wesleyan.