NBA

Justin Robinson convinced basketball can help youngsters avoid ‘ills’ in society

By Sports Desk March 14, 2024

Sports foundations and grassroots clubs must continue to act as a vessel to help guide youngsters away from anti-social behaviour and crime within inner-city communities, according to former Great Britain basketball international Justin Robinson.

The 36-year-old point guard grew up in Brixton before going on to further his career in the United States collegiate system, also taking in spells playing across Europe ahead of a move back to the UK in 2017 with London Lions.

As he recovered from a serious knee injury suffered during the British Basketball League playoffs in April 2022, Robinson launched his own community interest company, centred around engaging young people using basketball to help tackle social issues.

 

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Robinson, who returned to action for the 2023-24 season with Surrey Scorchers, believes such mentor initiatives like those he was able to access at childhood club team Brixton Topcats can play a crucial role.

“It is no secret, Brixton has its ills, on the other hand it is a vibrant community and one of love, but of course there are aspects that need to be changed,” Robinson told the PA news agency.

“I am from these same streets. These kids look like me, they speak like me, they live the life that I lived, so who better to go into these schools and speak to these kids, using basketball as a vessel?

“But this is so much bigger than basketball. We are teaching life lessons: anti-gang, anti-grooming and anti-drug.

“The main fact of me just being in their presence is a level of hope for them. They can be going through a lot at home, there could be a lot of problems in their area with gangs, so there is a lot for the kids to deal with today.

“I was fortunate enough to have that support at Brixton Topcats, I had so many male and female mentors who kind of kept me on the straight and narrow. I am just trying to give back what was done for me.”

Robinson added: “When I was growing up in the mid-1990s to 2000s, there was a lot going on in the area. There was a real big drug problem with lots of gangs, it was a lot more ‘in your face’ and stuff being done out in the open.

“Now what we are seeing is a lot of these kids are getting younger and younger, with the addition of social media too, so we have to grab them from a young age, from years four, five or six – these are pivotal ages where they can go the wrong way or the right way.”

The JJROB Foundation works in partnership with Lambeth Council and local organisations such as Juvenis, which offers bespoke support and training for young people who are having difficulties at school, at home or in the community.

Robinson is confident those relationships between local government and community groups can continue to grow.

“It is hard. There is the cost of living (crisis), the economy is in trouble, there are so many factors we have to think about, but from my interactions with them, they are sincere, want to help and have been,” he said.

Robinson, a two-time BBL League MVP, admitted there were periods during his recovery from a ruptured patella tendon and broken kneecap when he wondered if he would ever play again.

The 36-year-old has gone on to achieve 2,000 Championship points this season, becoming just the sixth active player to reach the milestone as he helps the Scorchers push for the playoffs.

“There are times where I feel like myself and forget I was injured, then there are still times when I have to rein myself in, with a bit of that fear of taking the wrong step or maybe jumping up and landing on someone’s foot,” point guard Robinson said.

“When you are injured, it forces you to slow down a bit and you read the game a bit more. I have surprised myself, but at the same time I have always been confident of my abilities.

“There are still quite a lot of games to play (in the regular season), but so far, so good.”

:: Limited tickets for the British Basketball League All-Star Game at the Copper Box Arena on March 17 can be purchased via www.britishbasketballleague.com/2024allstars/

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