Junior college transfer ready to take on Division I

Robinson was a top-100 recruit coming out of high school.

Johnson County Community College might as well be Jayhawk country.

Located in Overland Park, Kansas, the junior college belongs to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.

It may seem to be a place that bleeds red and blue, but Missouri women’s basketball begs to differ.

JCCC has provided the Tigers with two players in the last few years. One of them was forward Bri Kulas, Missouri’s leading scorer last season, who was drafted in the third round of the 2014 WNBA Draft.

The second JCCC standout of the pair is Juanita Robinson, a 5-foot-10-inch guard who hails from Chicago. Robinson was ranked a top 100 recruit by ESPN coming out of high school, but she said she went to the junior college due in part to academic reasons, and also because she saw it as a route to better offers.

Robinson redshirted her first year with the Lady Cavaliers due to a torn meniscus, but was a force for her next two seasons.

Robinson led JCCC to a 30-2 record last season and a first-place conference finish, averaging 11 points per game. She was recruited by a number of Division I programs following the season.

Robinson said Kulas told her the coaches at Mizzou “are here to make you better, not just for themselves. They’re here to help you succeed for later in life.”

Robinson said between Kulas’ words and MU academics, it was enough: She wanted to be a Tiger.

Now in Columbia, Robinson, although recovering from knee pains from previous injuries, has been practicing with her new team.

Captain and senior guard Morgan Eye said she sees the new transfer as a key to replacing a talent like Kulas.

“Juanita’s got some really nice handles and she sees the court extremely well,” Eye said. “She has a good level of maturity, having played at a junior college.”

Despite being new to the team, Eye said Robinson already has the strategies and plays down pat. She attributes this to the maturity and experience she earned during her career at JCCC.

Coach Robin Pingeton also said Robinson is an important addition to the young Mizzou team. She said she recognizes that the program has seen loads of success through recruiting from junior colleges.

“She’s a very talented young lady and she’s a competitor,” Pingeton said. “We’ve been very fortunate and blessed with the (junior college players) that we’ve signed and I think she’s got a chance to be one of the better ones.”

Although the fourth-year coach said she prefers to have players for all four years rather than for one or two, Pingeton said a program can benefit from the maturity and experience of transfers like Robinson.

For now, Robinson is transitioning her mindset from a community college to a Division I school. She said Mizzou has proven to be more time-consuming than JCCC, but nothing she can’t handle.

Of her comparison to Kulas, Robinson said, she hopes to “live up to those standards.”

“It’s been a work in process. It hasn’t been hard, but it hasn’t been easy."

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