JC transfer adds energy in the paint

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Junior college transfer Tyree Robinson is expected to provide energy in the key for Youngstoswn State.

YOUNGSTOWN — Francisco Santiago grins a bit when talking about Tyree Robinson.

The two live with Cameron Morse and Ryan Strollo on the Youngstown State University campus, helping Robinson — who calls Fall River, Mass., his hometown — adjust to the Mahoning Valley. Santiago, Morse and Strollo, all seniors, make sure Robinson doesn’t get homesick.

They’ll even play jokes on one another. Robinson said he hid Santiago’s laptop, but Santiago thought it was Morse who took it.

“He really didn’t know it was me,” Robinson said. “He tried to search my room. It wasn’t in my room. It was under the sink. No way anybody would suspect it would be under the sink. It was fun.”

Not many would suspect where Robinson takes the court for the YSU men’s basketball team. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 220 pounds, which seems more of the body type of a small forward, possibly a bigger shooting guard.

But his home is in the post, mixing it up with those players anywhere from three to seven inches taller than this YSU junior, who spent the last two seasons at Odessa (Texas) Junior College.

“Playing-wise, he’s the biggest guy down there,” Santiago said. “Height-wise, he’s the smallest. It doesn’t matter. He gets it done.”

Robinson is quick to elevate near the rim, fighting for position. He has soft hands, which is good for a post player. Robinson grabs the basketball off a missed shot, grips it quickly and slams it through the rim with both hands.

He wears a wrap on one leg after a sprain earlier this offseason, but it’s far from hindering Robinson.

“Once I get 100 percent, there’s going to be a lot of monster dunks,” he said. “Dunking is easy I’ve been doing it since the sixth grade. It’s really nothing hard.

“When you get in the area code, it’s your choice if you want to jump or not. If you do, I’m telling you you’re going to get dunked on. It’s just bound to happen.”

YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said the first couple of days of practice Robinson led the team with effort and energy.

“I think he could be a double-double guy,” Calhoun said. “For us to have a good year, himself and Braun Hartfield are going to have to shine.”

Calhoun, who spent the previous five seasons at Division II Fairmont State and guided the Falcons to the national title game, said Fairmont State thrived with players like Robinson.

“I’ve made a killing on undersized guys,” Calhoun said. “We had a lot of those kids that went on to become all-league and all-American.”

Robinson is quick to prove he’s one of the best out there, even to his coaches. Santiago said assistant coach Paul Molinari was getting on Robinson for his play. The YSU junior responded with four straight baskets, telling Molinari about each one as if the coach was on the floor with him.

“I’m going to be honest,” Robinson said. “I’m going to give you my 110 percent. There’s no shying away from it. This is who I am.

“I tell everybody you have to accept me for who I am. At the end of the day, I’m never going to change from nobody. This is going to be the way it is.”

YSU’s opponents are about to find out who Robinson is on the court.

“When you see me, it’s going to be war,” he said. “You’ve got to embrace it. Just deal with it. I’m coming after you.”

He’s embraced his situation at YSU, living with three Penguins seniors — Santiago, Strollo and Morse.

“Probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” Robinson said.