One of the things I enjoy about watching practice is seeing the redshirt players work with the scout team, and trying to mentally project how they will fit when they move from the scout team to the active team side of the court. Tesha Buck two years ago, and then Aisia Robertson this past season. From the very first practice, she showed as much athleticism as anyone on the court. She also combined a willingness to drive into the lane no matter who the posts were, coupled with a shooter’s short memory—a few missed shots never caused her to pass up an open look the next time down the court.
I am still waiting to see her in a Lobo game that counts, but earlier this summer I had a chance to sit down with her and find out a little more about this player from Louisiana & California, via the wheat fields of Kansas.
Joe: Welcome back for your second year as a Lobo. Glad to have you here.
Aisia: Glad to be here.
Joe: It’s been quite a trip from ocean to farmland out to the desert. How did that come about?
Aisia: Actually, I have no idea. I think about it every day. Basketball has taken me to the Mid-West and now in New Mexico, but it started out when I was in seventh grade and some people in my AAU program were being recruited by Kansas. The Coaches would come and watch our games also. They started talking to my coach about me and they wanted me to come out to their camp. So since 7th or 8th grade, I was going out to the camps at Kansas and I built a good relationship with the head coach at the time who was Bonnie Henrickson, but sadly before I was able to go there she got fired and ended up going to a new school. I decided to stay with Kansas because I loved the campus and all of that. But later I just needed a change for me personally and basketball wise. Coach Mike did what he had to do to get me here so now I’m in New Mexico in the desert.
Joe: After watching a high school interview you did, I understand we are fortunate that you decided to choose basketball over football. How did that decision go?
Aisia: Yeah, I’m a big football fan. I was in tenth grade and I wanted to go out for the JV team. I knew I wouldn’t be able to play varsity because I was serious about basketball, but I loved football. I could throw the ball, I was quick, and I could catch it. Quarterback, or wide receiver, or safety on defense were the positions I wanted to play. But my Dad and my Coach told me that I would not make it in football so they said we’re going to stick to basketball. Going to go in the gym and stay off the field. So that dream was shut down early.
Joe: Our son wanted to play football in high school. He was about 5’ 4” and all of 108 lbs. He played but it ended when he broke his hand.
Aisia: Yeah, that will do it. Breaking a bone, that’s it.
Joe: back to basketball, who influenced your style of play, and which people do you try to emulate?
Aisia: Growing up, my step-mom’s uncle was Gary Payton. In the NBA he was known as the Glove. It was about his defense, his attitude, and his fight. That was what I tried to copy as I grew up. But as I got older and paying attention to the WNBA, I started to copy Seimone Augustus. And Kyrie Irvine off of his finishes and lay-up packages. I like James Harden a lot, too, even though he’s a lefty, I pay attention to how he plays with his post player and how he delivers the ball. I look at a bunch of different things and different players.
Joe: So you’re going to grow the beard like Harden?
Aisia: [Laughing] No, no.
Joe: Coming from Oakland, any influence from the Warriors out there? Are you waiting for a late growth spurt to become the new Kevin Durant?
Aisia: I hope I can get his height! If I get that height, there will be a lot of people in danger. Watching the Warriors…when I was younger, I was a We Believe fan. That was when Barron Davis, Monty Ellis, and Steven Jackson were all on the team. Something I learned from watching their team was that it doesn’t matter what other people say as long as you’ve got the fight and the will to win, anything is possible. That’s the team that I really learned a lot from.
Joe: Speaking of defense, it was fun watching you and Cherise go at each other in practice all last year. As well as she did, she certainly never got passed you easily. And the same was true when she was guarding you. It was just fun watching the two of you.
Aisia: We’re both competitive. I don’t think you get to this level without being competitive.
Joe: After you red-shirted last season, now you get to play for real. What can people expect to see when they watch you?
Aisia: People should expect to see someone who’s laying it all out on the line day in and day out. I’m willing to fight for my team. So, even if I have zero points and ten assists, I would be happiest person ever. I live by and for my team. My biggest thing to learn is when I should pass and when I should score. Sometimes I look for my teammates a lot and I might have an open shot. I don’t want to be too passive and miss an opportunity for my team. That’s the biggest thing with me. My defense and energy, is definitely what I bring day in and day out.
Joe: Your energy was obvious watching practices last year. How do you keep up that level of intensity when you know you’re not going to get into the games?
Aisia: It’s just a mindset. I came in last season and I knew I wasn’t going to get to play, but that had nothing to do with the team. I had to make sure they were ready, I had to imitate the other team as best I could so they could be prepared for any and every thing. I just had to make sure the team was prepared.
Joe: The team has eight new players this year, that’s a lot. The Lobos lost four starters, a lot of playing time, and a lot of seniors. You’re one of only four returning upper classmen. How does that effect you in terms of the leadership vacuum?
Aisia: It affects us a huge amount, but I think with the season the team had last year, it definitely opened doors for this year’s team because now the entire conference is awake about New Mexico basketball. Now they know that we’re coming, but we just have to test the mindset of the younger people coming in. Hopefully, they will really understand what last season did for us. Now everybody is going to want to beat us. We were a good team; we lost a couple of games that we should have won, but that’s part of basketball. You win some, you lose some.
Joe: Off the court, what are you studying and where do you want to be in five years?
Aisia: I am majoring in Liberal Arts with a concentration in communication. Once I’m done with school, I definitely want to go to the league. Or if that is not possible, then overseas is definitely an option. Once basketball is over I want to get into coaching, but I also have my family in Louisiana. My grandmother has some property there. She bought a bunch of houses after Katrina which she renovated. I’m probably going to help her, take over her businesses, and let her live her best life.
Joe: What would you be like as a coach?
Aisia: I think I would be fun. I would be fun, but I would challenge you. I know the experience that I went through in colleges–being at the University in Kansas and here–I feel I have picked up a lot of dos and do nots. I would try to take my experiences and put them into my own coaching style, but I’d definitely be fun. You would have to be ready to run and play defense!
Joe: Yes, I’m sure running is something you’d get a lot of here.
Aisia: Yes, definitely! [Smiles.]
Joe: Since you have the mike, what else would you like to say to people?
Aisia: I just want to say thank you to all the fans and supporters. All the people out there who watch women’s basketball, but are not a fan of Lobo basketball, I would say that you should tune in this year because I feel we have a special squad. We’re going to be something special this year.
Joe: There are a lot of people looking forward to it. The attendance went up last year, and hopefully will go up a little more this year.
Aisia: Yup, got to keep climbing.
Joe: Thank you for taking the time to sit down. Enjoy the summer. We look forward to seeing you in the fall.
Aisia: Thank you.