When passion meets talent

Frank Robinson has played his basketball career with athleticism and a passion for being the best. But now Robinson is playing the best basketball of his life and he attributes it to what many athletes forget to do: just having fun.

"I used to put so much pressure on myself to play well that I'd play bad. Now, I'm finally at the point where I just play," Robinson said.

The Cal State Fullerton guard was named Big West Conference Player of the Week last week, leading the Titans to two conference wins over Long Beach State and Northridge. The senior averaged 16 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the wins, close to his season averages. When the games were on the line Robinson took over with his defensive play and stretched the leads in both games to seal the victories.

"It was an incredible feeling. The only way to win that award is to have your team win," Robinson said.

He ranks second on the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. During his three years at CSUF, Robinson has amassed 990 points and 445 rebounds, placing him within striking distance of the 1,000-500 plateau. Only nine players in CSUF history have reached those marks. CSUF Head Coach Bob Burton said Robinson was one of his best recruits ever and a cornerstone of the program.

"I felt great for him to get the award, but he's the Big West Player of the Week every week," Burton said. "Before he took basketball so seriously that it hurt him. It took him a while, but now he's coming into his own."

Robinson came to Fullerton after one year at East Carolina University and immediately made an impact. As a sophomore he was named Big West Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 11.5 point per game and 5.1 rebounds.

But Robinson said he never thought he would end up in Fullerton when he was in high school. He was offered scholarships at George Mason University and St. Mary's University, until an incident during his senior year at Chatsworth High School took them away.

"There was a bully on our team that always tried to cause trouble. He kept pushing me around and I finally fought back," Robinson said. "After that, everyone thought I was a head case."

Robinson was eventually allowed to go to ECU and was named the Pirates' most improved player in 2004, but when Conference USA lost five teams to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Robinson decided to transfer back home.

"Coming back home I didn't think about playing in the Pac-10 or anything," Robinson said. "When I got here [Fullerton] I thought it was going to be so easy. Then, in my first game against Pepperdine, I ended up with something like four points and five traveling calls."

Since then Robinson has come into his own and made a name for himself in the conference. Besides the Sixth Man of the Year award in his first season with the Titans, Robinson also earned honorable mention for All-Conference honors last season. Teammate and roommate Marcus Crenshaw, a junior guard on the team, was proud of Robinson being named Player of the Week.

"He definitely earned it; he should have gotten more than that," Crenshaw said. "Frank's so good, but people don't know how good he is. He's the most underrated player in the Big West."

Robinson and Crenshaw moved in together when Crenshaw came to Fullerton, which helps explain their chemistry on the court.

"Before he even signed here, he'd come from Detroit and stay in our living room for a week and a half and me and him developed such a good relationship that when he came and signed, I told him 'You're my roommate,'" Robinson said.

Crenshaw said Robinson was like a brother to him. The two do everything together, from working out to partying.

"He keeps me grounded. I know I always got someone to talk to with him there," Crenshaw said.

The two share a special bond on the court as well. In the game against Long Beach State, Crenshaw and Robinson combined for 35 points on 14-23 shooting, giving the Titans their first win against the 49ers since Robinson joined the team.

"It's like when he goes off, I go off. I get excited seeing him play because he can shoot," Robinson said. "When he shoots, it just motivates the rest of the team because the shots he make are just so crazy."

Now behind Robinson's strong play, the Titans are third in the conference and in position to get a top-seed in the Big West tournament. But to make sure that he doesn't get too caught up in the chase for the title, he said he'll just simply have fun.