Robbie Lemons, ‘10, is a guard for the Stanford University basketball team, which is playing its first round of the NCAA playoff tournament (“March Madness”) against University of New Mexico at 10:45 a.m.in St. Louis. Coach David Ancrum, Lemons’s coach on and off court during his time at Country Day, described Lemons as a great player, who’s pretty good at everything—whether it be rebounding, defense, or scoring. This is Lemons’s fourth year on the team, and he will be receiving his degree in economics in June.
Q: Stanford is going to March Madness! How do you feel about that?
A: We’re really, really excited to have made it, since it is our goal in the beginning of every year. It’s definitely a good way to close out my senior year.
Playing in March Madness has absolutely been a dream of mine. I think every young basketball player grows up watching the tournaments, filling out brackets and following day-to-day games. It’s definitely a dream come true.
Q: So making it into March Madness has always been the goal for the team?
A: Of course. I think our long-term goal is to win the national championship, but part of that is really just making into the tournament.
Q: What does Stanford need to do to play well against New Mexico and potentially other teams?
A: I think we just got to play together, play good team ball, play hard, compete, and also not get too caught up in the moment. You know, there are going to be a lot of distractions—a ton of people, a ton of media—so I think we need to stay focused and do whatever has made us successful up to this point.
Q: Can you comment the team’s strengths and weaknesses?
A: I think the strengths of ours are that most of us have been together for four years, so we’ve got a lot of experience together. We also know a lot about each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
As for the weaknesses, I think what we need to work on is getting off to a good start in a game. Whenever we have a good start, we have a lot of success. But when we don’t have one, the other team could open with a big run, and it’d be hard for us to come back from that.
Q: Looking back, how has basketball shaped your college experience? Is it what you had expected?
A: I definitely didn’t expect everything. It’s very time consuming. You really have to manage your time well to figure out when to work on your game, when to work out and when to study. It’s definitely challenging, but you kind of have to go through with it. It’s unique and a hard thing to prepare for. Basketball never bothered me, although you do get tired—but that’s all part of the experience.
Q: So how demanding is basketball, and how do you balance it with academics?
A: We’re allotted three hours a day and six days a week for basketball practice, though I get to the gym an hour early, and I stay about an hour afterward. So it’s probably about five hours a day, not counting an extra hour sometimes. But like I said, it’s got to do with planning. You really have to plan and manage your time well because when you get to college, you have so much independence unlike in high school where you have homework and assignments every week. It’s easy to fall behind—you need a lot of self discipline.
Q: What kind of a transition was it from Country Day to Stanford?
A: Academically I don’t think the challenges were too great. It wasn’t mind-blowingly challenging, though that obviously depends on what kind of courses you take. If I were an engineering or science major, I’m sure it’d be more labor intensive. But I take a good variety of classes, and I think Country Day definitely prepared me well. So academically, it was a pretty smooth transition.
For basketball, it was definitely a learning experience—and a very different one, too, as I had to step into a different role. It’s really the intensity—the intensity of college basketball is so much more, and it adds on each game. There are a lot more people involved, and you can feel it.
Q: Is there anyone in particular that you want to thank for your basketball career?
A: Coach David (Ancrum) has been great. I wouldn’t be here without him. He’s the guy that helped me when I was young and falling in love with the game, and he’s always given me a place to play and said encouraging words. He’s always been with me even when I wasn’t very good. He’s been a great teacher, and obviously so are my parents and everyone that I work out with in Sacramento.
Q: What is your fondest memory playing at Country Day?
A: Winning the first playoff home game my junior year. I think it was the first home playoff game ever in Country Day history, and the game came down to the wire. However, we pulled out of it, and it was pretty cool. I think I might have had to make four free throws down the stretch.
Q: How about a most memorable game in college?
A: Ah . . . there have been so many good games. The first game that I started in was definitely memorable. It was against Northwestern on the road, and I was able to have a pretty good game. We won that game by one point, I think.
And this year, there was another memorable game against Oregon, which is a top-25 team. We had just lost two games in a row, and we really needed a win, and we got one. The environment was pretty crazy, making it really intense and fun.
Q: Now that you’re graduating, any plans for the future?
A: It’s definitely something that I have to think about and figure out. I’m of course interested in furthering my education somewhere down the line, maybe a business school or something like that. I’m not sure if I want to work or keeping playing at the nets—I need to sit down with my family and think about it.
Q: Do you think this is the end of your competitive basketball career?
A: I really want to keep playing, so we’ll see how that’s going to work out. If I had my way, I would definitely keep playing.
Q: I read about a potential trip to Europe and the prospect of you playing overseas. Can you tell me more about it?
A: I know a lot of guys who don’t end up playing in the NBA. They go overseas because there are a lot of good leagues and competition out there. It’s something that I’ve thought about doing after Stanford.
Q: If you hadn’t played basketball, would you still have gone to Stanford?
A: Yes! I think Stanford is a really great school. It is a very good athletic school and has a good social life, so I think it can overall offer a great college experience. It is a decent size—not too big, not too small—and it’s in a beautiful area.
Q: And what would you have done differently at Stanford without basketball?
A: It’s tough to say—I don’t know! I’d probably find different extracurriculars to get involved in. I might have tried doing a double major and perhaps studied abroad.
Q: Do you regret anything?
A: No, I don’t, even though there have been definitely trying times throughout my career, and they have challenged me as an individual and forced me to grow up. I’ve also met my best friends probably for life here, so it’s great to be part of the team. It’s a great experience—I wouldn’t trade it for the world.