By JOEL COLEMAN
Shamia Robinson's basketball talents could have taken her to many places.
Instead, the West Oktibbeha standout decided she'd rather be right down the road.
Turning down offers from Georgia, Ole Miss, Southern Mississippi and others, Robinson signed a letter of intent with Mississippi State on Thursday, becoming the first West Oktibbeha female athlete to ever attain an NCAA Division I scholarship.
"It feels great," said Robinson. "Being the first female to sign, it just feels wonderful, and I have all this support behind me. I'm ready and I'm willing to work."
While she has yet to hit the hardwood in 2010-11 due to recovery from surgery on a torn meniscus in her left knee, Robinson is coming off of a junior season in which she averaged nearly a double-double, scoring 18.8 points and tallying nine rebounds per contest on average.
Sheila Bailey, who is entering her third season as Robinson's coach, says the combination of Robinson's hard work, plus a close bond, made Thursday's signing especially memorable.
Bailey is also hoping Robinson's current teammates receive a boost from the event.
"She's like my daughter so I'm very, very excited," said Bailey. "I just want her to push herself. She's a leader for the girls, so all this is going to help them because they want to be here. They want to go there. They want to experience this."
Once Robinson suits up for Sharon Fanning-Otis' Lady Bulldogs, she'll see quite a difference in talent as she moves from the Mississippi High School Activities Association's smallest classification to one of the grandest stages of college basketball, the Southeastern Conference.
Bailey doesn't think her star player will have any trouble with the changes.
"Shamia adjusts to anything that comes her way," said Bailey. "So she's not going to have a problem at all adjusting. She will go up against anyone. It will be a breeze to her."
Robinson feels the same way.
When asked if she'd be intimidated by playing in the SEC, Robinson had a quick response.
"Not at all," said Robinson.
Robinson has good reason for her confidence. Aside from her stellar numbers last season, she proved she's at her best when the stakes are the highest.
In West Oktibbeha's final game last season, a playoff loss to Shaw, Robinson put up 47 points.
In spite of how easy she can sometimes make the game of basketball look, Robinson says the recruiting process was slightly harder.
"It was difficult, but I enjoyed it a little bit," said Robinson. "Making a decision, narrowing my options down, that was really difficult."
While making her choice, Robinson wasn't swayed by her coach.
Bailey says she wanted Robinson to make up her own mind.
"I wanted it to be a decision that she made," said Bailey. "In the long run, if it is a decision that she feels bad about, I want her to know that it was a choice that she made. So I just sat back and let her do her thing. I'd talk to coaches as they called, but I was like 'It's whatever Shamia decides.'"
After officially sealing her college choice, Robinson is now ready to hit the court for her senior season. It will most likely be sometime in December before Robinson's knee is healed enough for play, but once it's ready, Robinson says she has plenty of work to do.
"As a team, I want us to win the state championship," said Robinson. "Individually, I want to just work on all my skills. Get better with my left hand and get better at dribbling and shooting. I just want to increase the skills I have."
The more Robinson improves, the better for West Oktibbeha and Mississippi State. As for the other schools that tried to attain Robinson's services, they'll be left wondering what could have been.
"I just wanted to be close to home," said Robinson. "I wanted to be able to represent Mississippi."