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Former Lobo star Robbins enjoys watching daughter’s hoops game

Former New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball standout Rob Robbins, left, and his daughter, Hannah, a rising star on the Arizona prep scene, are shown. (Journal illustration)

Rob Robbins’ basketball career ended years before the birth of his daughter Hannah. Yet, Hannah knows a great deal about the former Lobo star’s exploits.

How? Why?

“He talks about it all the time,” she said in a phone interview, prompting laughter from both dad and daughter.

These days, though, Robbins talks far more about Hannah’s budding basketball career than about his own.

The hoops apple has not fallen far from the tree.

Some two years ago, Robbins, 51, and his family – wife Jessie Sullivan-Robbins, son Liam, now 19, Hannah, 15, daughter Scarlett, 6 – moved from Albuquerque to Phoenix. In her freshman and sophomore years at Desert Vista High School, the 5-foot-11 small forward has led the Thunder in virtually every statistical category – “everything but turnovers,” she said.

Hannah was first-team all-region and first-team Tempe all-city after both seasons.

Meanwhile, recruiters have taken notice. Roughly 50 Division I schools, Rob Robbins said, have made contact.

“I don’t have any offers yet,” Hannah said, “but a lot of people are interested.”

Her father is confident the offers will come.

“They’re not allowed to talk to her yet because she’s too young,” he said. “The deal is, she can talk to them. They send letters and they can talk to me, or they can go through her AAU coach and set up a time, and she calls them.”

The most exciting approach, Hannah said, has come from Oregon. The Ducks were ranked third in the final Associated Press women’s poll before COVID-19 concerns scrubbed the NCAA Tournament.

It may not matter, but certainly can’t hurt, that Oregon coach Kelly Graves is a former Lobo. Graves was a senior in 1986-87, the year Robbins entered the program and sat out the season as a redshirt.

Hannah, a strong student with aspirations in the medical field, also likes Ivy League schools Columbia and Harvard.

“And definitely (Arizona State),” she said.

One school that has not made contact is UNM, her dad’s alma mater. Rob Robbins, while calling UNM’s absence “interesting,” acknowledges Lobos coach Mike Bradbury and his staff might not be aware of the connection.

That connection, though, is unbreakable.

Robbins came to UNM from Farmington, where he was all-state in basketball and baseball. The 6-5 sharpshooter left the program in 1991, ranked third on the career scoring list with 1,739 points. That figure still ranks ninth.

Rob Robbins, right, was a University of New Mexico men’s basketball teammate and close friend of Luc Longley, left. These days, Robbins is enjoying the emerging basketball skills of his daughter. (Journal File)

Robbins – known to teammates and fans as “Duke” – remains the Lobos’ all-time leader in free-throw percentage (88.8). He led the nation in that category as a junior, hitting 52 free throws in a row en route to a percentage of 93.5.

Perhaps most remarkable: Robbins, gritty and durable, played in all 133 of UNM’s games during his four seasons – and started every one of them.

During his career, playing all four years alongside close friend Luc Longley, UNM went 84-49. The Lobos made the NCAA Tournament in his senior year, ending a 12-year dry spell for the program.

After college, Robbins played professionally in Australia, France and stateside in the Continental and International basketball associations.

Once his playing days ended, he was an assistant coach under Jim Hulsman at Albuquerque High in 1997-98 – the Bulldogs won a state title that year – while earning his Masters in sports administration at UNM.

He was an assistant at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix in 1999-2000, then was head coach and general manager of the minor-league New Mexico Slam in 2001.

That same year, Robbins began a career in the medical industry. It was a job as territory sales manager for Organogenisis, a manufacturer of medical equipment, that took him and his family to Phoenix.

The move, he said, has been a boon to Hannah’s career. Playing for Desert Vista and the Arizona Elite AAU program, she has been challenged to raise her game.

“It seems like every team has two or three players that are above 6 feet,” Rob Robbins said. “It’s a whole different world than playing in New Mexico right now.”

The step up, Hannah said, never intimidated her.

“I was excited, because I had the chance to improve my game,” she said.

Hannah’s game, her dad said, reminds him of his own.

“I think our biggest similarity is she’s very good in the open court,” he said. “She can get a rebound, turn and take it and navigate the court. She knows when to give the ball up. She knows when to take it up and shoot, and she knows when to take it all the way to the basket. She has very good court awareness, and I thought that was one of the best things I had. I played the game the right way.

“And she plays the game the right way.”

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