Recently CHN writer Jon Teitel was able to spend some time with Long Beach State forward T.J. Robinson, currently the all-time leading rebounder in Big West history. Robinson and the 49ers are the 12-seed in the West Region, where they will begin play on Thursday against 5-seed New Mexico.
Jon Teitel: You played a very tough non-conference road schedule this season (San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina and Kansas State). Which of your opponents impressed you the most, and how much of an advantage do you think your schedule will give you in the postseason?
T.J. Robinson: We have played a lot of good non-conference teams during the past four years, and I think that level of competition will give us a big advantage.
JT: In January you tied a career-high with 19 rebounds in a win over Pacific, and you will graduate with the most rebounds in conference history despite being only 6'8". What is your secret for being a great rebounder?
TR: I try to work hard and just be in the right spot at the right time: that is my role and I am good at it.
JT: You scored 20 points but Antonie Young made a fade-away jumper with three tenths of a second remaining to give Creighton a two-point win in a BracketBusters game that snapped your 12-game winning streak. Where does Doug McDermott (36 points and 11 rebounds) rank among the best opponents you have seen this season?
TR: He is pretty good and as only a sophomore he has a good career ahead of him. He was everywhere in that game and made a lot of great plays.
JT: You have averaged a double-double for each of the past three years. How have you been able to remain so consistent throughout your entire career?
TR: I just train as hard as possible in the offseason. Endurance, conditioning, etc.
JT: Coach Dan Monson was recently named Big West Coach of the Year. What makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him?
TR: He taught us to have a great mindset coming into every game, and we want to be as good as his previous teams at Gonzaga.
JT: Cal State Fullerton snapped your 23-game conference win streak last week in a three-point win, preventing you from becoming the first Big West team to go unbeaten in conference play since Pacific in 2005. How devastating was that loss, and how have you been able to bounce back?
TR: It was very devastating. There was silence in our locker room afterward. We just bounced back by going out and practicing hard.
JT: Your teammate Larry Anderson suffered a knee injury in that loss and has not played since then. Will he be ready to go this week, and how crucial is he to your success?
TR: I have no idea if Larry will be able to play, but hopefully so. He is crucial to us because he rebounds and is a great defender.
JT: Big West Player of the Year Casper Ware scored 33 points (8-16 3PT) en route to being named tournament MVP in a win over UCSB in the Big West tournament final. What makes Ware such a great player, and was it extra-special to beat the Gauchos after losing to them in the past two conference tournament finals?
TR: We came in with great focus because we did not want to lose to UCSB three times in a row. Casper is tough and just has a will and a heart that I have not seen in a lot of other people.
JT: You start four seniors and one junior. Do you think your experience will be a big factor in the tournament?
TR: It will be a huge factor because we know how to defend and are one of the most athletic teams in the country.
JT: How do you feel about your seed, and how do you think you will matchup against New Mexico?
TR: I think it will be a great matchup. The committee blessed us.