When Robyn Gordon joined the Bryant High School basketball team as a sophomore, like all her teammates, she was a work in progress. She had size — she’s not 6’1” or 6’2” — and you can’t coach. The question for Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews may have been, does she have the will, the work ethic, to develop into a player who contribute to the success of the team.
“Her first day in the weight room was not exactly something you’d put on You Tube,” Matthews quipped on Friday.
The coach found out quickly that Gordon was not allergic to hard work, even though she had a lot of work to do, on her strength and her skills.
She got it done as Friday’s ceremony in the Bryant High School gym attested. Gordon, the daughter of Trivia Chipman and James Chipman signed to continue her basketball and academic career with the young program at Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden.
“When I first started playing ball, I didn’t take it as serious,” Gordon acknowledged. “I started playing my seventh-grade year. But then, the more I started playing it, the more of a love I started to have for it.
“My eighth-grade year, before I started playing AAU, I started getting better,” she noted. “I was able to make shots differently. I felt like I could actually compete with players that were better than me.
“When I found out that you can play at the collegiate level, I knew what I wanted to do,” Gordon declared.
“She has come a long way to this point where she’s going to sign to play college basketball, Matthews stated. “So few kids, boys or girls, get an opportunity to do what she’s about to do. It shows her tremendous work ethic, her high character. You don’t fall into these things by accident.”
In many ways, Gordon has grown as the Lady Hornets have grown. Her sophomore year, Bryant didn’t qualify for the State tournament. When she was a junior, the Lady Hornets got into the post-season but lost in the first round. And this past season, her senior campaign, the Lady Hornets made the tournament, earned a win at State, and wound up with a 16-11 record.
Gordon, who averaged 5.6 points and 4.5 rebounds a game, earned all-conference honors.
“I remember last year when we all first came together,” she said, referring to the talented group of sophomores who came in a year behind her, “we had just got a new assistant coach, Coach (Ann) Ferguson. She was the one that reminded us that, as we continued the season, we were all going to come together and we’re going to progress together. So, we promised to always keep that goal alive for her. We wanted to make State this year and we all came together. It was like, ‘We’re pushing together.’ If one of us failed, we looked at each other and kept pushing.”
Individually, Gordon said, “The last couple of years I’ve been working on a lot of shooting and ball-handling,” Gordon related. “Those are the two things I have to get more confident in, to learn to be more dominant on offense.”
“Robyn has worked very hard,” Matthews emphasized. “She has come a long way and that’s due to her work ethic. Her basketball skills, her strength has come a long way and that’s due to her setting a goal and striving daily to meet that goal.
“Not every day is perfect and sunshine,” he mentioned. “Some days, there’s a little cloud, a little rain along the way. But, at the end of the day, when somebody sets their goals and they go about trying to reach those goals, this is where you end up.
“I think the same things can be said of her academic career,” the coach continued. “I know her GPA has increased. We go back and look at her sophomore year, every semester of every year, her GPA has gotten better and better. That is also a tribute to her work ethic and her setting goals and realizing that these are things that are important. ‘For me to get where I want to go, these are the things that are important, that I need to do.’”
Matthews said that was not only to case on the court, in a game.
“Robyn’s always been a tremendous teammate, in the locker room, on the court during games, cheering on her teammates when she wasn’t in the game,” he related. “When we would watch film, she would be one of the leading ones standing up and cheering when her teammates do well. That’s something that, when you see it, sometimes you take it for granted. Not everyone does that.
“We will miss Robyn,” Matthews said. “She’s been a tremendous player for us. She was someone who was, to the utmost dependable, someone you could always count on. The longer I coach, when you say it out loud, you think everybody’s like that but they’re not.”
Gordon said that her first connection with SAU Tech came during last season.
“Coach (Andre) Williams actually came to one of our games,” she recalled, referring to the Lady Rockets’ head coach. “I think it was Central. He reached out to me through a teammate of mine.”
“We know that SAU-Tech is getting a tremendous young lady, first and foremost, and a basketball player who not only is good today but, in the years to come, has a tremendous opportunity to keep growing because this is not an end point. Signing is just a new start. She’s starting new somewhere else.”
Gordon said she plans to go into nursing.
“I have an opportunity to do two of the things I’ve always wanted to do, play ball at the collegiate level and study to have a successful career in nursing,” she said. “It lets me know, if I put my mind to it, I can do anything.”
SAU Tech is a new program, entering just its second year of competition.
“This was our first for the Lady Rockets women’s basketball team in the 50-year history of our college,” said Dr. Juanita Mitchell, the assistant head coach at SAU Tech. “We started out. We had a goal in mind. We couldn’t compete in the championship, but we finished with an 11-6 record and second in the state of Arkansas.
“The team that we had, that was put together, they worked very hard to achieve that,” she noted. “This year, coming up, we will be eligible to go to the NJCAA Region 2 championship.”
“Whether it be on the basketball court, the weight room, the locker room, the class room, Robyn set goals and Robyn set out two or three years ago to achieve those goals,” Matthews said. “Today, we are here because Robyn worked hard daily to achieve those goals.
“To build their program with kids like Robyn makes any program successful,” he added. “Whatever the sport, when you build your program with good people, success will follow. I know we have been lucky to have her and SAU-Tech, I believe, is lucky to get her.”
“We’re really excited to get Robyn on our team and to hear everything that her coach has said,” Mitchell mentioned. “We love to have student-athletes because it’s not just about playing basketball, it’s also about performing in the class room.
“We’re excited about what she’s going to bring to the team,” she continued. “I’ve seen some of her work during our tryouts and open gym, so I think that she’s going to be very beneficial to helping us get to the championship next year.
“Thanks to everyone who has helped to mold her and make her in Bryant,” the coach concluded. “We’re going to take the torch and carry on.”