Wil Robinson (2009)

Wil Robinson hasn’t played basketball in a long time, but the former Laurel Highlands High School star hasn’t been forgotten.

Robinson was surprised when he was notified that he had been elected for induction into the first class in the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.

Wil Robinson  

Robinson was also a star at West Virginia University and was inducted into the WVU Hall of Fame in 1997 and the western chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, but he feels this latest honor is very special.

“This is home and it means a lot to be recognized where you grew up,” he said.

Robinson’s credentials are impressive. He was a high school All-American with a 30-point scoring average and led Laurel Highlands to the 1968 Pennsylvania state championship.

Robinson played in the 1968 Dapper Dan Roundball Classic and scored 20 points as the Pennsylvania stars fell to the United States All-Stars 103-90.

During his playing career at West Virginia he garnered All-America honors during his senior season in 1972 when he forged the highest season scoring average in WVU history when he scored 706 points in 24 games (29.4), breaking a record set by Jerry West. The flamboyant Robinson scored 1,850 points in his career, trailing only All-Americans West (2,309) and Rod Hundley (2,180).

He holds the WVU Coliseum record for points in a game by a Mountaineer player (45 vs. Penn State in 1971). In fact, Robinson owns six of the Mountaineers top seven all-time single game scores at the Coliseum.

Looking back, the Laurel Highlands state championship still stands out for Robinson.

“That’s a highlight that you can’t forget,” Robinson remembered. “It is hard to beat as far as being the number one thing in your career unless you take an NBA championship or NCAA championship. The run to the state championship was something I’ll never forget.”

What made it so special was the way the community was caught up in the championship run and the great rivalry with Uniontown High School that made the whole town hoop crazy.

“You don’t see that too much anymore,” Robinson explained. “The whole town was caught up in it and for us to take the championship — you look back and you say, ‘Did we really do that?’ We went all the way and we won everything and that’s something that’s hard to do.”

Harold “Horse” Taylor was the architect of the Laurel Highlands basketball program and played a big role in Robinson’s development on and off the court.

“That is the bread and butter and that’s what makes you and breaks you after leaving high school,” Robinson said. “Either you’ve got it or you don’t and the high school coach is so important in developing people. Not only the basketball skills but the people skills and how you treat people and how you respond to pressure and how you respond to adversity and Horse taught us all that.

“He wanted to make sure that I got into college and that was most evident. He was concerned about basketball, but that wasn’t his main priority, it was to make sure that I grew up to be a man and carried responsibility and go on from there.”

When he ponders his career at West Virginia, Robinson sees unfulfilled promise. The 1971-72 squad got off to a 6-0 start before a terrible traffic accident involving players Larry Harris and Sam Oglesby ended their hopes for a great season.

Robinson is mentioned in the same breath in the record book at WVU with Jerry West and Rod Hundley and that is special.

“I didn’t go there trying to break records, I didn’t go there trying to be the number one scoring leader,” Robinson said. “I just went there to play basketball and do the best I could. When it all ended and I was number one in some categories and hold some records there I was just happy to be mentioned with the likes of Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley.”

Following his college career, Robinson was selected in the fourth round of the NBA draft by the Houston Rockets and the fourth round of the ABA draft by the Pittsburgh Condors. He played one year in the ABA (1974) with Memphis and Utah.

“It was a disappointment because politics played a role in my pro career,” Robinson lamented. “That caused me to end my career short. When I was with Houston I had actually made that team, but due to political reasons they wanted to keep an older player; they kept him as a player-coach for pension reasons and that took my spot and when they did that the season was getting ready to start the next day and all the rosters were filled and I couldn’t get picked up.

“I had to leave basketball and once I did that it was an uphill battle just to get back to the ABA. Once I got back into the ABA and things were going good the leagues merged. I was starting in Memphis and that summer they merged and I had to make a decision. Was I going to keep on going? I just didn’t have it in me and I decided to go back to school. I made a decision on what I wanted to do in life. Am I going to be a basketball traveling bum or am I going to try and get my education and do something with it?”

Robinson returned to WVU to complete his bachelor’s degree in 1975 and eventually finished his master’s degree in safety in 1984.

Robinson, 59, and his wife, Pam, were married in 1987 and they have one son, 18-year-old Lance. Robinson is working for a company called The Shoe Show and is the district manager for 16 stores in western New York.


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