A crown has many expensive jewels that make it valuable. The city of Malton, in the province of Ontario, is an example of this. Individually, Malton's basketball crown jewels have impacted Canadian basketball at every level and in many different ways. Paul Coffey Park, formerly known as Wildwood Park, was the place where everyone came to hone and show off their skills. Unity Club Team and Islington (NACI) Club with Coach Bear was how Malton's Elite Ballers would come together to defend the city's honor throughout the year in Greater Toronto Area's top men's tournaments.
Phil Dixon-Bathurst Heights CI, Wayne "Fridge" Robinson-Runnymede CI, Richard Stuart-Oakwood CI, Dennis "Air Wolf" Smith-Leacock CI, Justin Jones-Oakwood CI, Trevor Poyser-West Humber CI, Bernard Jackson-St Michael's, Jeff Zowner-St. Michael's, Patrick Williams-Leacock CI, Delroy and Leroy Williams-West Hill CI - Malton's hometown hero Bobby Allen faced them all. He was a relentless scorer that carried the hopes of young Malton ballers on his back. He's an 80's legend and top 5 on many of our lists of the best Greater Toronto Area High School Basketball Players of all time.
More legends would spring out of Malton. Sherman Hamilton, Steve Nash's longtime backcourt mate with the Canadian National Team and current Toronto Raptors Sports Broadcaster, is the first name that comes to mind. Also in the history books is Canadian NBA super agent Mike George, who landed Canada's first #1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett. Before becoming an agent, Mike co-founded CIA Bounce AAU Team. Throughout its history, CIA Bounce was home to a roster full of NBA Draft Picks, including Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis, Anthony Bennett, and most recently, Jamaal Murray. This only further solidified Mike George and his Malton roots in the history books of Canadian basketball influencers.
This brings us to another Malton legend that ranks amongst his peers; Jerome Robinson.
Like so many of the top ballers in Malton at the time, Jerome’s family came from Jane and Finch in hopes of finding a better place to raise their children. That migration brought together an amazing talent pool of young ballers equipped with the hunger of "the hood" and filled with the passion to become great. While Bobby Allen was kicking the door open for Malton ballers, and Sherman and the gang were tearing off the hinges, Jerome was one of a group of young ballers anxiously waiting their turn. Jerome and the other "young guns" would waste no time by soon becoming one the best Canadian junior boys high school basketball teams assembled.
"The 1993/94 42-0 Westwood Junior Boys Basketball Team was the best all around team I have ever coached in terms of their offensive and defensive approach. Defensively, we were ferocious and intimated other teams. From the warm up when our guys started dunking, the other team had already given up. They were also being groomed to be role models and inspire others. It was important to take them out of the city to other parts of Ontario - Kingston, London, Windsor, Sarnia, Niagara Falls to get them out of their closed niche. It had to do with building their character. " - Jonathan Graham, Former Head Coach, Westwood SS
"Our Junior boys team went 42-0 playing against all the Greater Toronto Teams. Several of the guys on the team, Mike George, Paul Archer, Kingsley Hudson, and I were from Toronto inner-city communities of Woolridge, Jane & Finch, and Stanley. We came to Malton because our families left the hood before it got worse. But we came to Malton with a tough mentality already embedded in us. We were riding BMX bikes with no gears type kids and we took that to the courts” - Jerome Robinson
Jerome arrived in Malton as a 5th Grader in 1988. His brother, Greg Walker, arrived in high school and made Westwood his rest stop. Jerome credits his brother for first teaching him how to play basketball and, more importantly, for teaching him how to survive!
"On the gravel at Marvin Heights Public School, Ridgewood Public School, Darcel Avenue Sr. Public School, was where I learned how to hoop, in the era of outdoor ball. Today outdoor courts are not as thriving, but we killed it. We got our scrape marks, worked on dunks and learned to bang." - Jerome Robinson
Present day Malton basketball power, Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School, was founded in 1968 as Westwood Secondary School. It was renamed in 2000 after it merged with Morning Star Secondary School. This is where Bobby Allen established himself as the emerging Kingpin of Malton Basketball. He would later transfer to Morningstar S.S, which marked the beginning of a rivalry with the intensity of an underground dogfight. Jerome remembers the days of rushing to see Bobby play.
"Bobby was the best in Ontario! We would leave middle school as soon as the bell rang and went straight to Westwood to watch the games. We had never seen anything like him. Even when you thought someone was good, he was better." - Jerome Robinson
Westwood basketball was firmly established as the local entertainment and was loaded with great players. Jerome's brother would immediately become part of a group of high-flying, bouncy athletes like Sherman Hamilton, Euan Roberts, Andrew Sheppard, the Lars Brothers and Jason Dressler. Not only were they athletic, they were a great team that would go onto OFSAA in 1992/93 and lose in the Semi-Finals by 2 points to a loaded West Hill C.I. team led by future Canadian Men's National Team all-time leading scorer, Rowan Barrett.
Jerome followed in his brother's footsteps and became a Westwood Wildcat. Westwood had great success during Jerome's years, and that was despite his beast of a junior ball team not remaining together into their senior years. Like the great Bobby Allen, Mike George made the move to Morningstar CI, leveling the playing field and keeping the fresh kindling on the fire of one of Canada's greatest high school rivalries.
"Jerome not only was feared above the rim but what made Jerome really deadly was his defensive tenacity. I would be on the bench knowing I would not have to call a timeout when the other team made a run or a player got hot because I knew Jerome would make the adjustment himself. He would switch with the player guarding the hot scorer and shut them down or raise his level of intensity to bring the team up defensively. He was the second coach on the floor." - Jonathan Graham, Former Head Coach, Westwood SS
There was still the extra OAC year of high school during this time, so Jerome would have five great years at Westwood (1yr midget, 1yr Jr, 3yrs Senior). In his senior year, he averaged 23 points per game and led his Wildcats to the 1997 OFSAA finals against Eastern Commerce H.S. where they suffered a heartbreaking loss in the Gold Medal game.
“We were down 1 point and Issac King got a steal. He thought we were down 2 pts so he dribbled out to the 3pt line. Unfortunately, time ran out and we lost to one of Eastern Commerce H.S. best teams with Doug Johnson and Colin Charles. We finished with the OFSAA Silver Medal but we were grimy competitors that just loved to ball, so straight from the OFSAA Finals we jumped in a van with our AAU coach Ian Andrade and went straight to Montreal for a tournament. Again we fought hard but we lost to a Philadelphia AAU team in finals." - Jerome Robinson
Jerome finished high school as one of the G.T.A.'s top five players as selected by the Toronto Sun and Toronto Star newspapers. He had to climb a mighty mountain of elite peers to earn that spot; players the likes of Wayne Smith, Bathurst Heights CI-Duquesne U. (top3 all time in scoring there), Mike Schmidt, North Albion CI-Texas A&M/ Niagara U., Danny Aponsa, Runnymede HS - Niagara U., Andre Sola-Drake University, Aaron Mulnor, Morning Star CI-Northwestern U., Colin Charles, Eastern Commerce CI- St. John's, Collen Pappone, Morning Star CI-Florida Atlantic U., Damien Reid, Bethune Cookman-St Joseph's U., Duane Jones, Westwood SS-LaSalle A10, Vidal Massiah, Eastern Commerce CI-St Bonaventure, Dean Walker, Oakwood CI-Central Connecticut State U,, Kofi Mensa-Runnymede CI-Central Connecticut State U., Caswell Cyrus, Eastern Commerce- St. Bonaventure A10.
"My memories of Jerome Robinson run the gamut. On one hand, he was a polite, well spoken young man, but on the court, he was more than a handful of talent, athleticism, intensity, and drive. I recall when we (Runnymede CI) were undefeated in Canada at 16-0 and had just returned from a big time American Christmas Tournament. Up next was the St. Mikes Tournament. We had a tough game with Westwood, who was very good. Jerome scored 37 points and without being disrespectful, almost single-handedly handed us our first loss of the season! He was a scorer for sure but was also tenacious defensively with long arms, quick hands and good footwork. It is no surprise that he had a great 4 year career at Bradley University and is now one of Canada's up & coming young coaches at New Mexico University!" - Paul Melnik, Head Coach Father Henry Carr C.S.S.
"A particular high school moment that stands out was when we played cross-town rivals Morning Star and I was in transition and took off way outside the lane line and my friend Miles from Morning Star decided he wanted to be a hero and take a charge. I dunked on him so hard that they almost shut down the game. People were running on the court, throwing things. It was chaos. That's when I really realized the power of the DUNK!" - Jerome Robinson
AAU Basketball was just beginning in the G.T.A. and the God Father of AAU Bob Marsh along with Coach Bear from Islington Community Centre got Jerome started on the scene. AAU was good for Jerome and many offers came to the table, but he chose Bradley University to continue his basketball journey. For many of us
"Looking back, I wish we had vets that could have taught us more about the fundamentals. We Just focused on our athleticism, not knowing we needed to work on 2 ball drills and other important skills. It wasn't until I made the Canadian Men's National Team with Steve Nash and he would invite me to get up shots after practice did I learn what it took." - Jerome Robinson
By his senior year, Jerome had tremendous success in the Missouri Valley Conference. He finished Defensive Player of the Year, 1st Team All-Conference, Captain of the Most improved team in the conference, and Bradley U.'s All-Star Team of the Decade. Not only did Jerome have to face great players to accomplish these milestones, but the Missouri Valley Conference's coaching roster has since become the "who's who" of NCAA Basketball Head Coaches today; Dana Altman-Oregon, Steve Alford-UCLA, Matt Painter-Purdue U., Bruce Webber-Kansas State, Kevin Stallings-U. Pittsburgh, Mike Turgeon-U. Maryland.
Jerome first got the opportunity to play with and learn from Steve Nash in 1999-2000 leading up to the 2000 Olympics in Australia. Even with his impressive play alongside the Canadian G.O.A.T., Jerome still ended up as one of the last cuts along with Keith Vassell, missing out on a trip to Sydney to represent the Maple Leaf.
In 2001 after the Olympics, Jerome would return to team Canada as a member of the team headed to Argentina to qualify for the World Games. The work Jerome put in leading up to the tryouts helped him to make the team. Then fate would open the door for him to start the majority of the games because Rowan Barrett couldn't get out of his professional contract overseas. The Canadian National Team finished 3rd at the qualifiers and made it to the 2002 World Games.
"In 2001, with the Canadian National Team, we went to Argentina and finished third against a loaded Argentian Team. A few of the top guys on their roster were Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, and Pepe Sanchez. We had Steve Nash, Mike Meeks, Shawn Swords, Todd MacCulloch, Andrew Mavis, Mike Schmidt, Dean Walker and fellow Malton baller Sherman Hamilton. Coach Jay Triano gave me the match up against Ginobili, the things he did was amazing. Ginobli was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1999 and entered the NBA in 2002, so I don’t feel bad now. I got to guard a future NBA Hall a Famer and it helped me get ready to play professionally overseas." - Jerome Robinson
Playing with the Canadian National Team created opportunities for Jerome to compete and develop as a player in ways very few opportunities could have. Training and playing alongside Nash helped him improve his ability to score the ball. He would also play with Nash and the Canadian Team in the NBA Summer League. The summer before going back to Bradley for his senior year, Jerome got to match up against then L.A. Clippers players Baron Davis, Corey Maggette, and Lamar Odom while playing alongside Nash.
"After the summer of my junior year with the Canadian National Team, I went back to Bradley U. and became the 2001 Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, no problem. Looking back it was an incredible experience. I wish I understood then what I was in the midst of." - Jerome Robinson
Jerome's had a tremendous college career leading his Bradly U. team to 2 NCAA NIT berths and a trip to the Missouri Valley Conference Finals. However, even with the accolades piling up, Jerome didn't always see himself playing professionally.
"My main goal was D1 and I didn’t have my sights set on being a pro. After my senior year at Bradley U. had I had 4 workouts with the Toronto Raptors. Then it got real and I started getting letters from agents. The light clicked; I can make a career of this." - Jerome Robinson
Jerome began networking to seek pro opportunities and a friend made a call on his behalf to Nick Nurse, Head Coach of the Brighten Bears in England (Nick is currently the Toronto Raptors Assistant Coach). But politics came into play with too many Americans on the team and Jerome got shafted!
Once again it would be his connection with the Canadian National Team that assisted in his transition to another level. Gordy Herbert, Jerome's former Assistant Coach with the Canadian National Team, was now coaching in the Austrian National Team program. He made a call to Austria Oberwart Gunners in the Bundesliga on Jerome's behalf. The Gunners brought Jerome in for a two-week trial. Jerome destroyed the tournament and got signed before the two weeks were even up. He finished that season as the 3rd leading scorer in the league with 23 points a game and earned Defensive Player of the Year, Import of the Year, Forward of the Year in the Bundesliga, and Dunk Contest Champion. Next, Jerome would move to Kapfenberg in Austria. Still in the Bundesliga, but a different team. They ended up losing in the semi-final of the playoffs.
Overseas there's a continuous move from team to team for many reasons. A more lucrative contract offer would take Jerome to 1st division Belgium the Vilvorde League. But halfway through the season, the team folded because of bankruptcy. Jerome's wife was pregnant with their 1st born, so he needed to find a job. He gave his agent a call and Quimper, a team in the France Pro B League, had a player get hurt and needed a wing A.S.A.P.!
France Pro B was a great league and Jerome started playing with Quimper. He soon moved up to Brest, a team in France Pro A League. Many NBA players played in this league, including NBA All-Star, Toni Parker of the San Antonio Spurs. Jerome played there for two years then moved to a team called Limoges CSP in a city called Limoges, known as the porcelain capital of the world. Limoges was also the former Euro Champs. This is where Jerome's career would come to an end. He broke his ankle and was not bouncing back the same. Rehab wasn’t going as quick and his son was about to be born. He soon realized he did not have enough established in Canada and would need to start from scratch. All his playing years would not be enough to boost his resume.
Then came a difficult decision. Instead of returning to Canada, Jerome and his wife made the choice to return to Detroit, Michigan, his wife's hometown and birthplace of their three children. Jerome's goal was to he get back into NCAA Basketball. He knew he needed connections to get in, so he opened a professional agency for three years called Lyan Inc., placing mid-level guys overseas in many European countries like Czechoslovakia, Sweden, and Austria. Jerome's players were getting paid, but his agency was getting burned. It was becoming clear he would need to take another direction.
Life then came full circle. Jerome would reconnect with his old friend, Mike George, who was beginning to blow up on the AAU scene with his CIA Bounce organization. Jerome knew Mike would have connections with NCAA coaches and his hopes were Mike would be able to put in a good word for him that could open a door.
"Mike made calls and got in contact with Rob Murphy at Eastern Michigan U. Rob created a position for me on staff as a video editor because he saw that my experience could really help his players. At Eastern in my first year, we broke the NCAA D1 record for least points against and lowest shooting percentage against in a half a game. We finished as the best defensive percentage team in all NCAA D1 (Eastern Michigan U. vs Northern Illinois)" - Jerome Robinson
This initial success in the College ranks left Jerome itching for a coaching opportunity. So once again Jerome would call on long-time friend Mike George and who had been looking out for him for ages. Mike heard of an assistant coaching position opening up at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, New York. Jerome got a job offer only one week after his interview. He spent 2014 - 2017 with the Bonnies, helping them become the third highest winning program in the Atlantic 10 Conference in the past five years, along with the most conference wins in history and most in program history.
Jerome has since moved on to become the assistant at the University of New Mexico under Head Coach Paul Weir, the 1st Canadian NCAA D1 head coach since the game's founder, James Naismith. With so many years ahead of him this Canadian Basketball Jewel will certainly continue to do his part in building on the city of Malton's basketball legacy.