Bubba Skelton and Shane Oakley know Tremont Robinson-White pretty well, and they know that he has high expectations of himself and his team now that he’s back in the East Carolina lineup.
The two coaches, who led Robinson-White during his 2017-18 season at Northwest Mississippi Junior College, also understand that a ramp-up period is expected when a player transitions from junior college to Division I.
But they have a message for the Pirate Nation: This kid is a difference maker.
“Tremont’s always been a winner,” said Skelton, who spent two decades as a junior college head coach at Northwest and Jones County Junior College. “Everywhere he’s played he’s won. There is always an adjustment. There’s usually a style of play adjustment, there’s usually a little bit of a physicality adjustment.”
“He will have an adjustment period, don’t get me wrong, but just by the way he works, his could be a little shorter than everyone else’s,” said Oakley, who served as the assistant when Robinson-White played for the Rangers and has been the head coach there since 2018. “His enthusiasm, his drive to win, when the game’s on the line he wants the ball. He knows when it’s time to take over, he knows when it’s time to get his teammates involved.”
The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard returned to action in the starting lineup for the Pirates on Saturday at James Madison and he played again Tuesday night in a home contest with Coppin State, scoring 14 and 10 points, respectively, in the two ECU losses.
Robinson-White said on Monday that he experienced some soreness with his return but no pain from the ankle injury that kept him off the floor for the Pirates’ first seven games.
“It was a blessing, with the type of injury that I had, to be back out there quicker than I expected,” Robinson-White said. “I was just ready to get out there and fight with my brothers. It feels good, and I’m expecting to get better. I feel good physically and mentally.”
After a stellar career at Maumelle High School in Little Rock, Robinson-White went to Northwest and made an immediate impression, averaging 18.3 points per game, shooting 57.8 percent from the field, and, most impressively, leading the nation in steals at the junior college level. He was tenacious on defense during his time there, Oakley said, and on offense he was equally committed to distributing to his teammates and scoring when the opportunity arose.
“He’s just a hard-nosed kid,” Oakley said. “He makes everyone better. I’d take 10 of him and challenge anybody with ‘em.”
Robinson-White opted to transfer to Garden City (KA) Community College last season after he had already committed to ECU, for the express purpose of redshirting so that he would have three years of Division I eligibility.
So before the JMU game last weekend, he had not played in a college game in some twenty months. It goes without saying that he was anxious to move beyond the role of cheerleader on the bench.
ECU’s leading scorer, Jayden Gardner, is happy to see Robinson-White adding his talent and energy to the lineup too, saying, “Tremont adds a lot of versatility, guarding, length. He’s very athletic, he’s very competitive, and he can also make an open three.”
Gardner has been the only returning player in the Pirates’ starting lineup for the last few games, creating a natural opportunity for newcomers like Robinson-White to step up and contribute leadership on the court. His former coaches discovered that Gardner is a player who inspires greater things in his teammates, and when the time is right they have no doubt that Robinson-White will have the same effect on the Pirates program.
“He doesn’t have to score 20 points a game to help you win,” Skelton said. “I think when you get to see him more and see his personality, he’s a kid who will help bring success.”