Work Harder, Play Smarter
Boys Basketball, Features, Sports

Work Harder, Play Smarter

By Fancy Robbins

Fast, strong, explosive. These are terms typically used to describe an “elite” athlete. 

Rob Robbins was none of the above. He couldn’t jump high. He wasn’t speedy. 

But while his physical traits may have been underwhelming, his performances on the courts and diamonds were overwhelming.

“I think I had to work harder than everyone else,” Robbins said. “I think I had to be smarter than everyone else. I had to know how to play the game. Some people can get by with being athletic and doing whatever they want, but that wasn’t the case with me, which was great because it made me learn how to play the right way.”

By playing the right way he learned how to draw a foul and get to the free throw line, and also getting open for his teammates.

Every year the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame chooses the best basketball graduating seniors from 25 years ago to be on the Silver Anniversary Team. This year that will be the class of 1999.

In December, Robbins was named as one of 18 basketball players statewide to be chosen for the Silver Anniversary Team.


The ceremony is March 20 at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. Later that evening, the Silver Anniversary Team and players who are being inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame will be honored at a dinner in Indianapolis.

“It’s neat to see a lot of the guys I grew up playing with from the time I was 10 or 11 years old and all the way through college,” Robbins said. “To be on a team with those guys is really an honor.”

He’s the all-time leading scorer in Delta boys’ basketball history with 1,575 points. He has the highest scoring average in a single season in Delta history (29.1 ppg), the most three-point field goals made in a season (69), and highest three-point field goal percentage for a season (57.4%).

But his statistics weren’t the only thing that made him deserving of this honor. His work ethic was second to none.

He spent his mornings shooting 100 free throws, then after school would go to his team practice. After practice, Rob would work out with a few other guys, including his dad and younger brother, Kelly. Here Rob would shoot another 100 free throws and put up at least 500 shots.

“Even though he’s one of the best players in the history of the school, he always wanted to get better,” retired Delta basketball head coach Paul Keller said.

Retired assistant coach Dave Reade added that another reason why he deserves to be on the team was his coachability, and that he always listened and applied what he learned.

Keller said Robbins had a special skill that stood out. 

“He had the best hands of any player I ever coached,” he said. “When he caught it he could shoot it.”

Rob Robbins shoots a jump shot in the semi-final game of the 1997 IHSAA state finals vs, LaPorte at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. (Photo Provided)

With shooting 200 free throws daily, he became one of the best free throw shooters in Delta history. During a free-throw-a-thon fundraiser, he made 493 out of 500 free throws for 98.6 percent. He made the most consecutive free throws in a season with 46 in a row. He also has the highest free-throw percentage for a season at 97.9 percent. (48/49)

Robbins was one of only three basketball players from Delta to be named an Indiana All-Star. The other two, Purdue University head coach Matt Painter and Patrick “Petie” Jackson, have both been included on the Silver Anniversary Team in previous years.

Rob Robbins
Rob Robbins poses for his Indiana All-Star picture from 1999. (Photo Provided)

Painter’s jersey, #12, is the only jersey retired at Delta.

“(Rob) and Petie Jackson, both their numbers 42 and 10, they deserve to be retired,” Keller said.

Robbins was a part of Delta’s famed Cinderella story team as a starter. The 1996-97 school year was the final year of single-class basketball in Indiana, and Delta made it all the way to the championship despite being a small school.

“For a kid growing up in Indiana that’s about as special as it gets,” Robbins said.

He dropped 13 points in that game as a sophomore although Delta fell short to Bloomington North.

Robbins wasn’t just a standout in basketball, but also earned all-state recognition in two other sports, tennis and baseball. 

Rob Robbins’ all-state picture on the wall at Delta High School. (Photo by Fancy Robbins)

“Going from one sport to the next was always difficult because you are in one shape to the next, so transitioning from tennis to basketball then basketball to baseball is different,” Robbins said.

He had little to no free time but enjoyed spending time with friends as much as he could. His summer schedule was usually filled with Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournaments along with tournaments for his other sports.

The passion he had for all the sports he played was the driving force behind the success he achieved. 

Robbins went on to play basketball and baseball at Ball State University. He had offers from the University of Evansville and Western Michigan University for basketball and Miami University in baseball.

The BSU basketball coach, Ray McCallum, came to Delta to watch Petie Jackson play. McCallum saw Robbins’ talent, also.

Robbins knew he wanted to stay close to home, so when McCallum offered a scholarship to play he knew it was the right choice.

At BSU, Robbins would end up playing with high school teammates Billy Lynch and Petie Jackson again. They were three of the starters on the 1997 Eagle team.

“Those guys really helped make me a better player just playing against them in practice and in the summer,” Robbins said.

At the 2001 Maui Invitational Division 1 basketball tournament, Ball State upset third-ranked Kansas University and then knocked off fourth-ranked University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA.) They lost to top-ranked Duke University in the championship.

He majored in finance, and now he’s a sales representative at a print and web design company called CS Kern.

A recent picture of Rob Robbins at CS Kern. (Photo Provided)

Robbins and his wife, Melissa, have three kids, Madelyn and Mallory Robbins and Braxton Russell. Madelyn played tennis for two years, and Mallory played volleyball all four years. Braxton has been a standout wrestler and football player and is currently a senior.

Robbins gets the most enjoyment out of watching them play sports and uses the lessons he learned from his sports career to teach them how to be better athletes.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve always told them was things are not going to go your way, but all I ask is that you play hard,” Robbins said. “You need to learn how to lose and win gracefully.”

“You don’t have to run the fastest, jump the highest, but work hard and good things will come to you.” – Rob Robbins


March 7, 2024

About Author

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fancyrobbins Fancy Robbins is a junior taking her third year of journalism at Delta High School. Some of her hobbies include playing softball, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.


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