EDITOR’S NOTE:The following story includes quotes from Khalen “KK” Robinson taken during an interview conducted on April 8 …
By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Once upon a time there was a Razorbacks reign of terror known as 40 Minutes of Hell that demoralized opponents who ventured into Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, and to hear 2020 Arkansas commit Khalen “KK” Robinson tell it the heat’s about to get turned way up again with the arrival of four in-state pledges who make up the nation’s 7th-ranked recruiting class.
“I think it’s going to special,” Robinson said of himself, Moses Moody, Jaylin Williams, and Davonte Davis officially becoming a quartet of Hoop Hogs in the near future. “Just because we all grew up either playing against each other or with each other. Me and Moses have been playing together since, I think it was 3rd or 4th grade. And then me and Devo we always played against each other being a rivalry just because we were good point guards growing up, and everybody wanted to see us play against each other. And then Jaylin, me and him going at each other last year (2018-19) and having those epic battles.
“Now that we’re all together, we can bring our talents and make it hell for everybody playing against us. I just feel like it’s going to be special, and I can’t wait.”
Robinson (6-1 point guard, Bryant, Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, composite national No. 71 / 4-star prospect) could sign his national letter of intent with Arkansas as soon as Wednesday, the first day of the spring signing period that runs April 15-August 1.
“April 15th, that’s the plan,” Robinson said. “I might go Instagram Live, I really don’t know. My Dad said we are signing during the time period, but we really haven’t talked about how we’re going to do it. I wanted a ceremony, but since coronavirus happened that kind of changed all that. Me and my Dad are still working on how we want to do this.”
Davis (6-4 point guard, Jacksonville, ESPN national No. 83 / 4-star prospect) has already signed with the Hogs (during the November early period), while Moody (6-5 shooting guard, Little Rock native, Montverde Academy in Florida, ESPN national No. 38 / 4-star prospect) and Williams (6-10 forward / center, Fort Smith Northside, composite national No. 72 / 4-star prospect) are expected to join Robinson in signing during the spring period.
Robinson said the group stays in constant contact with each other.
“We text a lot,” Robinson said. “We were just texting in a group chat the other day about the new commit (Vance Jackson). So, we do text a lot just keeping each other updated on what’s going on, what’s coming up next year, how we feel, just trying to get closer because we’re going to be living with each other and be around each other every day next year. Just building that bond, becoming brothers, just doing everything it takes to be successful next year.”
Just like all other athletes are faced with right now, Robinson is observing social distancing while finding creative and meaningful ways to stay in shape and work on skill development on his own.
“I’ve been getting up a lot of shots, dribbling outside, going to the track, push-ups, sit-ups, just anything I can do to get better,” he said.
Robinson was a local star before making a splash on the national level as a standout playing his senior season at prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. He was the 3A state tournament title-game MVP as a freshman in ’16-17 when he led Epsicopal Collegiate to its first state championship, and he led Bryant to the 6A state title game as a junior in ’18-19 against Williams and Northside.
As a senior ’19-20, Robinson was the starting point guard and the best two-way player (offense and defense) for an Oak Hill team that finished the season 36-3 and at one time had risen to No. 2 in the nation in ESPN’s Top 25. He averaged 13 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 43% from 3 and 82% from the free throw line for an Oak Hill team that finished ranked in the national high school Top 10 and qualified for the GEICO national championship tournament that was recently cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Had the eight-team national championship tournament been held in early April as scheduled, Robinson and Oak Hill possibly could have matched up against Moody and Montverde Academy, which finished the ’19-20 season undefeated at 25-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country.
“It was a big accomplishment,” Robinson said of qualifying for nationals. “Coming from playing in a state tournament to playing in a national tournament, and possibly playing against a future teammate that’s also my brother (Moody), I was really looking forward to it. Now that it can’t happen it’s kind of sad that we aren’t able to finish our high school careers. But that just gives us a chip on our shoulder to play next year and treat every game like it’s our last.”
Robinson believes his move from the Arkansas high school ranks to Oak Hill to play on a national stage for his senior season was the right move for his continued development.
“I think Oak Hill helped me the most during practice,” Robinson said. “Playing against those top-level guys every day, competing every day, in the weight room, on the court, traveling, all those things really helped me a lot to get better for the next level. Oak Hill is a high-level high school program, so everywhere we play we have to bring it. Like the Kentucky of high school basketball, so we got everybody’s best game. Knowing I had to bring my A game every night out, that helped me out a lot.
“My point guard skills improved — facilitated better, was stronger with the ball, just made the game easier for my teammates.”
Robinson said the work he’s put in has prepared him to make a positive impact next season at Arkansas.
“That’s the goal, that’s what I work every day for — just to be able to come in and contribute at the highest level and try to help our team get wins,” he said.
With Fayetteville and his freshman season as a Razorback in his sights, Robinson said he likes what he sees when he looks over Arkansas’s ’20-21 roster.
“We’re very skilled at every position,” Robinson said. “We have pieces everywhere. We have great point guards. We have great shooting guards. We have great small forwards. We have great pieces at every position. It’s not like we have a missing piece on the floor. I feel like next year we’ll be great all around.”
Robinson has always been a plus-defender verging on being elite in some aspects on that end of the floor, and his offense showed significant maturation as a high school senior, specifically his three-point shooting and explosive rim-runs — the latter of which helped him prove he could aggressively attack a defense against high-level competition. The lefty’s mid-range game also got a boost as he incorporated a variety of hesitation, change-of-pace, and change-of-direction moves to create open looks between the arc and the rim.
After watching Arkansas play in ’19-20 without a true floor leader combined with seeing Robinson’s steady and effective efforts as a two-way gem, he arguably comes in as the most ready to help at both ends of the floor at the point guard spot. The Hogs had the best three-point field-goal defense in the nation, and a smart, instinctive, hungry defender like Robinson figures to bolster Arkansas’ chances of having another elite perimeter defense.