There is an old saying among college coaches that the best thing about freshmen is eventually they become sophomores. But Amherst women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki is quite content with his freshman leading scorer, Tewksbury native Megan Robertson.
The defending Division 3 national champions returned six seniors this season and haven’t missed a beat in racing out to an 8-0 start and a number one national ranking in the D3hoops.com poll. Robertson has had a large hand in that success, leading the team in scoring and rebounding with 13.9 points and eight rebounds per game.
“We expected a lot of her, but with our returning seniors she wasn’t expected to be a focal point,’’ said Gromacki. “But it’s great to have a freshman as our leading scorer.’’
Gromacki, who is 128-9 in five seasons at Amherst, has had a number of successful freshmen, but he admits that he has never had anyone make an impact this fast.
“Our team wants to win and it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior,’’ he said. “It didn’t take her long to integrate herself with the team. She’s a smart player, the kids like her, and she’s a good teammate.’’
Robertson played high school ball at Phillips Andover Academy, where she was a three-year starter, helping lead her squad to three New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class A postseason berths, and two appearances in the championship game. She averaged a double-double her last two seasons.
She also played AAU ball for the Rhode Island Breakers, gaining exposure throughout New England during the college recruiting process. She decided on Amherst because of the rigorous academics in addition to the highly successful basketball program.
Gromacki said he saw a player who loved to play the game, and wanted to learn.
Coming to a team that was the defending national champion was daunting at first, according to Robertson, and she did not expect to come in and lead the team in scoring.
“It was intimidating at first. Every day in practice is a championship intensity, and the older players emphasize that,’’ she said. “I expected I would fill whatever role the team would need. I didn’t expect this kind of start, but I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to fill that role.’’
Gromacki said he saw he might have something special in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage a week before the season started, when Robertson dominated on the blocks.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be long before she made an impact,’’ he said.
It took all of one game for the 6-foot-2-inch Robertson to burst onto the scene. Despite her success and impressive numbers the first few practices, learning from the older players made her feel like she belonged.
She especially recalls the layup lines of her first college game. “It felt like the beginning of a four-year journey,’’ she said.
Her 14 points and nine rebounds in the season-opening win over Norwich set the precedent for a ride that her teammates and coach will happily hop onto for this season and beyond.
She scored in double figures in her first seven games, including a 26-point, 13- rebound effort against perennial women’s basketball power Emmanuel College, the only Boston school to ever reach the Final Four in men’s or women’s basketball.
Her best attribute is the fact the offense doesn’t have to run through her. Robertson runs the floor well for a post player, and can pick up easy buckets outrunning opponents on the break and finishing layups. She is also an excellent offensive rebounder, snagging 39 of her 64 total boards on the offensive end.
“She has a nose for the ball; it’s something you can’t teach,’’ said Gromacki. She also has an innate ability to get to the foul line, through her strong post moves and ability to get after it on the offensive glass.
“If I miss my own shot, I’m that much more motivated to get my own rebound and have another chance,’’ Robertson said. “I just go after it with a tenacity to get the ball.’’
She hasn’t let the early success go to her head, and she knows there are still things to work on as she helps the Lord Jeffs maintain their top ranking and capture another national title.
“I hope to continue my play the way it’s been, but there is definitely more I can work on, especially improving my defense,’’ Robertson said.Nick French can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.