November 13, 2021 

‘Our biggest recruit’: Taya Robinson returns to VCU looking to win in March

The fifth-year VCU player brings production, leadership and versatility to the defending conference tournament champions

When Taya Robinson told VCU head coach Beth O’Boyle she would be back for a fifth season, O’Boyle couldn’t help but dance. 

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“I’m not going to show you, but it was a legendary dance move,” O’Boyle said at the Atlantic 10 media day on Oct. 28. 

O’Boyle noted that they waited until after the season ended to discuss whether Robinson would return for another season.

“To say the least, that was our biggest recruit coming back,” O’Boyle said. “But it was honestly her decision.” 

Robinson grew up in Richmond and played high school basketball just seven miles away from the Stuart C. Siegel Center at Huguenot High School. Having her family nearby and able to come to every game was important to her. 

Robinson, now a graduate student at VCU, told NBC 12, “Right down the street, home town, you get to stay with your family and your friends. I’m a big family person, so that’s always been a big thing for me.”

Last season, Robinson was named to the All A-10 First Team and, for the third year in a row, the All-Defensive Team. 

Ahead of the team’s NCAA Tournament matchup against Indiana in March, O’Boyle said, “She’s a complete player. And she’s a phenomenal leader. So there’s big smiles and hugs because I think Taya has absolutely earned it [her awards].” 

Robinson does a lot of different things for the team, and last season she averaged 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. “She’s going to use her strength. She’s going to rebound. She’s going to impact the game on the defensive side,” O’Boyle said. 

She added, “Offensively, she just plays at such an incredible pace. She can make really great reads and I think a lot of that is just from the experience. ‘Okay, you’ve seen what happens when a team tries to deny or what happens when you’re going to get trapped.’ And she just helps elevate the play of her teammates.” 

During Robinson’s freshman season, the team went 7-22 before turning it around and making it to the conference championship three seasons in a row.

After losing to Fordham in 2019 and Dayton in 2020, VCU won it all in 2021, defeating UMass 81-69. After the win, Robinson was named the A-10 Championship’s Most Outstanding Player. 

“What an incredible end of the year, too,” O’Boyle said. “To go through the A-10 championship at home and to be cutting down the nets in front of her family here in Richmond, it was phenomenal.”

Prior to the A-10 tournament, O’Boyle said that Robinson was carrying the team. 

“She’ll play the point guard for us. She’ll play the post for us,” O’Boyle said. “She’ll guard their center. She’ll guard their point guard. She does a little bit of everything. You look at those stats, and she’s rebounding, she’s getting assists, she’s leading us in scoring.” 

Despite the success Robinson has had at VCU, she’s also overcome injuries and undergone surgeries. 

“I did miss a lot of time my freshman year, I missed some time my junior year, I missed a game [in 2020-21],” Robinson told NBC 12. “I talked to my brother and he said it might be best to stay another year. You can get that time back.”

At media day Robinson said she wanted to come back for her fifth year to get more experience under her belt because she wants to play professionally. But, prior to the A-10 tournament in March, O’Boyle noted that Robinson already plays like a pro. “She brings that competitive mentality to everything she does,” she said.

Robinson also excels in the classroom. “We’re very fortunate that we have an incredible Center of Sports Leadership (CSL) master’s program here at VCU,” O’Boyle said. 

O’Boyle knows that Robinson wants to play professionally before possibly going into coaching or athletics and believes that getting her master’s degree will help Robinson do that. 

“The experience that she could get there and the things that she can learn from our CSL, she was really excited about as well,” O’Boyle said. 

Robinson could not pick just one thing she was excited to come back for; she’s excited for it all. 

“I’m most excited to go back for every game, honestly,” Robinson said. “But to go back to the championship, go back and win again. Repeat.” 

In addition to her play on the court, Robinson enjoys being a leader and mentoring her younger teammates. “I just try to help out,” she said. “I have been here for a long time. So experience-wise, trying to help the young people out in [whatever way] I can.”

Madison Hattix-Covington knows that Robinson has impacted the entire team. 

“I mean, just having her here with the veteran leadership,” she said. “It’s not just me; she impacts the whole team. And I think it’s really been pushing us in summer workouts and then now going into [the] season.”

Hattix-Covington came to VCU with Robinson, and the pair are in their fifth year as teammates. 

“She really has become a leader,” Hattix-Covington said. “I mean, she came in a leader. But for me personally, she’s always asking me when I want to get in the gym. And she always pushes me to be better. She holds me to a certain standard during practice.”

O’Boyle knows that having Robinson back for a fifth year helps the team and gives her teammates confidence.

“She’s in the weight room,” O’Boyle said. “She’s got a great work ethic with that. She wants to help our younger players really develop. So you see the leadership piece off the court and on the court.” 

Despite leading the team in scoring and steals and grabbing the second-most rebounds last season, Robinson has her eyes on continuing to improve. 

“I really work on everything,” Robinson said. “Everything can be improved upon: shooting-wise, getting to the rim, finishing through contact and looking for my teammates. Looking to get them open in other ways. So working on everything. I’m not just looking to focus on one spot on offense, but looking to create for others.”

In the season opener against Middle Tennessee, Robinson had five points, six rebounds, two steals and one block. 

O’Boyle reflected on her time so far with Robinson, saying, “Honestly there’s probably, in my tenure here, no player that has had the level of impact as Taya has.”

In her final year of eligibility, Robinson has her sights set high. 

“We’re not satisfied with that, with just winning the A-10,” Robinson said. “We want to go in [to the] NCAA [Tournament], and get some wins in there, too.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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