MORGANTOWN — When John Fowkes took over as the head coach for the Trinity Christian boys’ basketball team two years ago, he knew that he would have to schedule top competition in order to rebuild the program.
Fast forward to present-day, and the Warriors are coming off one of the toughest slates in West Virginia high school basketball. They battled three of the seven teams that joined them in the Class A state tournament in the regular season and traveled cross-state to duel top-tier competition in multiple tournaments.
As the Warriors faced the increase in competition, Fowkes knew he needed a player to step up and take on the responsibility of guarding the superb athletes that his team was sure to face. The question that remained was who it would be?
Fowkes found the answer to that question in Joel Robertson.
“Each game we asked Joel to guard the opposing team’s best player,” he said. “If you look at last year’s schedule, there were some pretty good players he had to guard.”
Robertson, a junior at the time, was ready to step up. Fowkes preached defense like a pastor at the pulpit, and Robertson soaked it up like one of the Twelve Apostles.
“Last year, I figured out defense is about 99 percent effort and one percent skill. It became an aspect of the game I could completely rely on,” Robertson said. “If I was having a bad shooting night, I could make up for it on the defensive end.”
As the mentality began to stick and the level of competition increased, Robertson’s confidence and skill began to develop.
“We played a lot of good players out of this state last year, and the more I got to guard them the better my confidence increased along with my defense,” he said.
Fowkes said that Robertson’s energy would seemingly never run out, and his effort on the defensive end paid dividends for the Warriors’ offensive output.
“He’s a player that would play the whole game with no rest,” he said. “His defense definitely created some scoring opportunities for us.”
Now heading into his senior year, Robertson in finding ways to prove himself off the court as well. According to Fowkes, he is consistently one of the highst-energy players in the weight room during summer workouts.
“I’ve realized how much senior leadership we lost after last season, and I’m doing my best to pick up where they left off both on and off the court,” Robertson said. “I try to keep everyone engaged and excited so when the season comes we can provide that same energy.”
As the Warriors look poised to make a second straight run to the state tournament, Robertson has high expectations for himself and his squad.
“We’ll have a solid team full of seniors. Obviously we will have to face some adversity at some points during the process, be we just have to keep working to be the best unit possible,” he said. “I feel like we will be able to contend for the state title and make an even deeper run than we did last year.”