During his first week of schooling at Dominican University of California, Roman Robinson received two pieces of bad news.
First, Roman Robinson found out that his father, Raymond Robinson, had to take a 20 percent pay cut at his job. Second, Roman Robinson discovered there was a hold on his athletic scholarship to play basketball at Dominican, an NCAA Division-II school located in San Rafael, Calif.
This meant Roman Robinson would have to wait and hope that one of the basketball players would relinquish his scholarship — which, at a school that charges $38,600 per year in undergraduate tuition, was unlikely to happen.
So, Roman Robinson and his father began to think about alternatives. Roman Robinson had previously spoken on the phone with Webster University men’s basketball coach Chris Bunch, and Raymond Robinson had heard from a couple Webster alumni that the university was a good school academically and financially.
However, Roman Robinson, who was born and raised in California, had never visited Webster’s campus nor been to St. Louis. He had already made good friends at Dominican, which was only a 40-minute drive from his home in Fairfield, Calif. Initially, he was apprehensive about making such a drastic change in such a short amount of time.
But on Aug. 26, 2011, Roman Robinson decided to take a leap of faith. Moments after speaking on the phone with his father that Friday, Roman Robinson committed to transferring to Webster.
“(My father) said, ‘We’re going to pay X amount of dollars here, or we’re going to pay X amount of dollars here,’” Roman Robinson said. “I said, ‘You know what, Dad, I’d rather you guys feel a little more comfortable with sending me somewhere and not worrying about (money).
“So, I just decided Webster. It took five minutes. I said, ‘I’m going to call you back in five minutes, Dad.’ This is it. ‘Hey, Dad, I’m going to go to St. Louis.’ (We) got me a flight and I left on Sunday, (Aug. 28). I made the decision that quick.”
The news of Roman Robinson’s transfer stunned Bunch, especially because the first week of Webster’s undergraduate classes had already begun.
“I was surprised when they called me that first week and wanted to know if he could still come to Webster,” Bunch said. “It definitely was a pleasant surprise because I had kind of given up on him at that point. I think he’s done really well here. He’s got good character. He’s a good person, and I feel like he’s been a great addition to our team.”
Roman Robinson was vacationing in Hawaii in the summer of 2011 when he first spoke with Bunch. At the time, Roman Robinson didn’t give the possibility of attending Webster much thought.
“Coach Bunch called me, ‘Hey, Roman, how you doing?’ I was like, ‘Hell no, I’m not going to go to no country school,’” Roman Robinson said. “I’m cracking up, like, he’s hecka country. But he was so cool. He told me about the school and everything.
“I never thought I would be where I am right now, dude. And that’s why it was nothing but God, bro. If you would have told me a week before, ‘Roman, you’re going to end up in St. Louis,’ I would have been like, ‘OK, all right.’”
Roman Robinson said Webster and St. Louis were “slow and boring at the beginning,” but things picked up once basketball season started. During the 2011-2012 season, Roman Robinson played in all 26 contests and averaged 12.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. For his efforts, Roman Robinson was named to the All-Conference first team.
This season, as a senior forward, Roman Robinson has once again played in every game, helping the Gorloks to a 14-11 overall record and an 11-5 conference record. He has averaged 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Roman Robinson and the No. 4-seeded Gorloks will play top-seeded Spalding University (Ky.) in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament semifinals on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in Louisville, Ky.
Triple threat: Actor, model, musician
Acting runs in the Robinson family’s blood. Though Roman Robinson has never taken acting lessons, he — along with his father, mother, two sisters and brother — acted in a national TV commercial for Chevrolet in 1999. Ray Robinson, Roman’s older brother, acted in the 2001 film “Sweet November.”
Roman Robinson got his shot at the big screen at the age of 10. While living in San Francisco, Roman Robinson received a script for the film “Hardball” through his agency, Generations Model & Talent Agency.
Roman Robinson tried out for the role of Jarius Evans, better known as “G-Baby.” Roman Robinson practiced his lines for three months, and at the audition, he was given the part.
But Roman Robinson’s parents weren’t ecstatic about all the cursing their son would have to do as G-Baby. When Roman Robinson’s parents let the film’s producers know this, they decided to go in a different direction, hiring DeWayne Warren for the role.
“Even to this day, it gives me chills when I think about it,” Roman Robinson said. “Like, I could have been in ‘Hardball.’ … I still watch ‘Hardball’ to this day, and I always laugh because I know all the words automatically.”
When he was 16, Roman Robinson acted in a Spike Lee short film that featured NFL legend Jim Brown. He has also acted in TV commercials for Nokia. Though he hasn’t done as much acting recently, Roman Robinson said he’d like to continue the craft after he graduates.
In addition to acting, Roman Robinson has modeled on and off since 1995. In 2009, he did a print shoot for HP Pavilion alongside his father and younger sister. Roman Robinson said he mostly does commercial and print modeling as opposed to runway modeling.
At the age of 18, Roman Robinson taught himself how to play the piano. He heard the instrument at church as well as from his sisters, who both took piano lessons. Roman Robinson said he plays the piano just about every day, and recently, he’s started to mix his piano and rapping skills together. He’s released two songs, “Big Spender” and “Past.”
“You can teach yourself to fish, to play basketball — there’s all types of ways of doing it,” Roman Robinson said. “But I guess mine was just because I had passion for it, so it made it easier. I just wanted to learn more, so I was like, ‘How do I learn more? I’ve got to keep playing.’ I would play literally every single day.”
Faith on and off the court
Roman Robinson was 12 when he became a Christian. He said his life hasn’t been the same since. He prays before the start of every basketball game with his teammates, and he says short prayers during games as well.
Praying before and during games is a tradition Roman Robinson started at Rodriguez High School (Calif.) and continued for two years at Merritt College, a community college in Oakland. He said praying helps him stay calm during crunch time.
“The importance of God and Jesus Christ is everything,” Roman Robinson said. “It’s just like I can’t shake him. It’s like a good cold. I can’t shake him, and I don’t want to shake him. I do not know where I would be right now if I didn’t know who Jesus Christ was. I couldn’t inspire, motivate (or) encourage. That backbone is Jesus Christ in every decision. I try to keep him first.”
Raymond Robinson said his son’s faith helped him make the transition from Dominican to Webster.
“Roman felt comfortable after praying to God about this situation — going to St. Louis, not really knowing anyone out there,” Raymond Robinson said. “… Prayerfully, he felt settled in his spirit. Although he was a little reluctant at first, he pretty much succumbed to saying, ‘You know what, if I’m supposed to be there then so be it. It must be God’s will.’ So, he moved on.”
After Roman Robinson graduates from Webster this spring with a degree in political science, he will complete an internship this summer. He hopes to play basketball overseas in the future.
“As long as I’m still moving and grooving and I can fly up and down that court, I will always continue to play basketball,” Roman Robinson said. “If God says the same, I’ll continue it after (Webster).”
Roman Robinson said he’ll continue to act, model and play the piano. Further down the road, he plans on attending law school, as he wants to be a criminal lawyer. But first, he hopes to lead the men’s basketball team to a SLIAC tournament championship.
“I’m just happy to be out here, and just grateful to God for the opportunity,” Roman Robinson said. “I came a long way.”