Shiloh Robinson

KEARNEY HIGH graduate Shiloh Robinson brings the ball up the court while playing for Liberty University this winter. The Liberty team won the Atlantic Sun Conference to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which since has been canceled.

KEARNEY — Shiloh Robinson initially thought he would redshirt in his first year at Liberty University.

But that quickly changed as the 6-foot-7, 215-pound freshman forward from Kearney showed promise in preseason practices.

Robinson and the Liberty men’s basketball coaching staff agreed just days before the start of the regular season that it was in the team’s best interest if he played this season.

Robinson was a key piece off the bench for the Flames, who posted a 30-4 record and had one of their best seasons in program history this year.

The Flames tied for the second-most wins in Division I behind Gonzaga’s 31 victories. They also won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament to earn their second consecutive automatic berth for the NCAA Tournament.

Robinson didn’t experience the thrills of March Madness this season, however. On March 12, the NCAA canceled the tournament due to the coronavirus crisis.

It was a shocking occurrence for Robinson and his teammates, especially since the Flames’ roster boasts four seniors. Last year, the 12th-seeded Flames upset fifth-seeded Mississippi State in the first round.

“We figured out March Madness was probably going to get canceled when the NBA suspended their league,” Robinson said. “I found out on the notification app just like everyone else. Most of the coaches were gone recruiting, so we had a team meeting to discuss the season later that night.”

Robinson ranked eighth in minutes played and was one of six players to appear in all 34 contests for the Flames this season.

He averaged 2.6 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting in 10.9 minutes per contest. He was a versatile option defensively for the Flames, playing mostly at power forward. He also saw time at small forward and center, which he played in high school for Kearney High School when he earned 2018-19 Hub Territory Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

“It was obviously an adjustment from high school to college,” Robinson said. “I think I definitely got a lot better.

“The hardest transition was the physicality. Nebraska high school basketball doesn’t really prepare you physically for Division I. Also, just shooting. I didn’t shoot a lot in high school, so that was a big adjustment.”

Robinson, a sports management major, returned to Kearney on March 19 and will finish the semester online.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Liberty is allowing students to remain on campus and attend classes in-person if they prefer that option.

Robinson said he will return to Lynchburg, Va., once student-athletes are allowed to use the athletic facilities.

He hopes to improve his dribbling, understanding of the offense and jump shot this offseason in preparation for his sophomore year.

Although the season ended abruptly, Robinson is appreciative of the success he experienced in his first year. He also aspires to lead the Flames back to the NCAA Tournament in the future.

“March Madness got canceled and that was disappointing,” Robinson said. “But something I’ve been thinking is that if our team needed to win one, two, three more games to deem our team as successful then the whole season was useless. We won 30 games, so I don’t think we should focus on what didn’t happen but what did happen. We had a really good season.”

@DanZielinski3