By Walter Villa | Jan 11, 2018
Special to espnW
Photos Courtesy of Pam Merchant
Louisville signee Seygan Robins and Mercer County are headed for a collision with Tennessee powerhouse Hamilton Heights Christian.
Named for an astronomer, Seygan Robins was a freshman when one of her passes made contact.
Just not the way she intended.
Taking the ball out of bounds under her own basket, Robins, now a 5-foot-10 senior point guard at Mercer County (Harrodsburg, Kentucky), was supposed to throw the ball to the near block. But she spotted teammate Emmy Souder on the opposite side, wide open, and fired a hard chest pass right on the money.
"I get smacked in the face," Souder said. "And I couldn't see for the next five minutes of the game."
Robins' teammates (and others) have learned a lot since then.
"She makes no-look passes to the refs," said David Tapley, who has coached Robins since seventh grade with the Kentucky Premier AAU team. "She has always been 10 steps ahead of the other kids, and that -- at times -- has made her seem out of control."
Last season Robins, a Louisville signee, Souder and three other players who have been together since their Ninja Titans fourth-grade travel team won a 2016-17 state title, the first in Mercer County history.
Now Robins, a University of Louisville recruit and the No. 38 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100for the 2018 class, is on a mission to help Mercer County repeat as state champs.
A prickly star?
Robins' father, Brandon, was watching a science-fiction movie called "Contact," when he found his inspiration. His wife, Marta, was pregnant, and Brandon noticed the name of astronomer Carl Sagan in the closing credits. The Robins called an audible in terms of the exact spelling, but the family had their name for their second child and only daughter.
Seygan seemed to arrive with an out-of-this world competitive spirit. As a little kid, if she found herself losing a board game to her brother Tanner, she would find an excuse to stop playing -- anything not to lose.
In third grade, she was the only girl on an otherwise all-boys' team. She was small and scrawny, but she earned the boys' respect quickly. But, somehow, everyone on the team mistook her name for "Sadie," and Robins played along for the entire season.
Mercer County senior Seygan Robins already has scored more than 2,000 points in high school.
"I didn't tell them I wasn't Sadie -- I just went with it," said Robins, 18. "I guess I was a little intimidated."
That has since changed as Robins plays a fearless brand of ball, supremely confident in her ability. She has made first-team all-state two years in a row, averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds as a junior. She shot 79.5 percent from the foul line last season and 44.4 percent on 3-pointers.
Mercer County's 19th-year coach, Chris Souder, who is Emmy's uncle as well as Robins' uncle by marriage, put Seygan on varsity when she was in seventh grade.
The season before that, she was brought up to the varsity for a game so she could sit on the bench and get used to the environment and speed of play.
But Robins didn't like that plan. When she didn't get in the game, she slammed the door on her way out of the locker room, irate at her uncle's coaching decision.
"She thought she should be not only playing ... but starting," Marta Robins said with a laugh.
Robins became a starter in eighth grade, and she has more than 2,000 career points. But she is far from satisfied. A lefty, Robins has made a concerted effort to use her right hand more. She also wants to improve her mid-range game and get the release of her shot higher and quicker.
"Whether it's at 6 a.m. or after school," Chris Souder said, "whenever Seygan has something to improve, she goes to war in that effort."
Setting her coordinates
Robins had long made it clear she wanted to stay close to home for college, and that meant a battle royale between the University of Kentucky, whose campus is just 30 minutes northeast from her house, and Louisville, 75 minutes away, northwest.
Robins chose the Cardinals, in part because coach Jeff Walz's hard-nosed style reminds her of Souder.
She committed to Louisville in the summer before her junior year and then went on to win that historic state title, beating Franklin County 85-71 last March on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.
Robins posted 19 points and seven assists, earning MVP honors as Mercer County (31-6) ended its season on a 13-game win streak.
"After we won, I looked up in the stands, and I saw our entire town standing on their feet," Robins said. "That was pretty crazy to see."
Emmy Souder said it was no surprise that Robins led the team to greatness.
"Seygan is basically a baller in everything she does," said Emmy, who scored a team-high 20 points in the state final. "Everybody in school basically loves her. Seygan makes everyone feel like they're awesome."
Mercer County has indeed been awesome this season. Robins was named MVP of the Naples Holiday Shootout in Florida after leading her team to the title. Mercer County is ranked No. 12 in the espnW 25 Power Rankings. The team's lone loss was to Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), in the season opener. Next week they'll take on former No. 1 Hamilton Heights Christian (Chattanooga, Tennessee) in a showdown that could have national championship implications.
"She should win Kentucky's Miss Basketball," Emmy Souder said. "She deserves it, and if she doesn't win, I'll be very upset."