Dec. 10, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Robert Sampson doesn’t know about doing things the easy way. Nor does he want to.
The 6-8 senior forward from Atlanta, Ga., prefers to do his business the blue-collar way.
Sampson, who played AAU ball with the Atlanta Celtics, his freshman and sophomore years of high school at Northview (he finished up at The Bullis School, in Potomac, Maryland), and his freshman, sophomore and junior years of college at East Carolina, has made a very strong impression in his first year being back at home, primarily with his rebounding and energy.
Despite coming off the bench, Sampson has hit the boards hard, grabbing at least five rebounds in seven of Georgia Tech’s first eight games, including a season-high nine against Marquette in the first game of the Orlando Classic. He is tied for second on the Jackets with 45 rebounds with redshirt senior forward Demarco Cox, despite having played nearly four fewer minutes per game (21.7 mpg to Cox’s 25.3).
Sampson’s skill on the glass isn’t news, as he led ECU in rebounding 19 times, with 12 double-digit-rebounding games as a junior in 2012-13.
He’s showing signs of being a double-double guy — he had three at ECU — as he had his first double-digit-scoring game (11 points) in the 66-58 ACC/Big Ten Challenge win at Northwestern, scoring 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, 1-for-1 from three and 2-for-2 from the line. Sampson also played a season-high 29 minutes, as Coach Brian Gregory didn’t have to be wary of foul trouble, which has kept him below 25 minutes four times but only twice in the last five games (he played 20 minutes in the loss to USC Upstate but had only one foul).
While some of what Robert does can be credited to good genes — he’s the youngest of two sons of former Virginia center Ralph Sampson, a three-time Consensus First Team All-American, three-time College National Player of the Year, three-time ACC Player of the Year, nine-year NBA veteran and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Class of 2012), most of the credit derives from a good old-fashioned work ethic.
Sampson took time recently to talk with The Good Word about how he’s doing so far in his first season back home in Atlanta, his doing the dirty work on the floor and on listening to and doing what his dad says.
THE GOOD WORD: How would you assess your play early in your first season as a Yellow Jacket?
Robert Sampson: It’s going pretty well. We’re playing hard. The team is meshing well together. I’m trying to get the rust off from the year I took off. I’m trying to get back into the flow of things a little bit better. I’m trying to prepare myself a little bit more.
TGW: You’ve made a niche for yourself coming off the bench doing the dirty work. Is that an aspect of your game that you take pride in?
SAMPSON: Yeah. I go out there with the mentality of playing as hard as I can while I can. I don’t know when my last game might be so my strategy is to go out there as hard as I can, do the dirty work that people might not want to do. I’m there to help the team.
TGW: Foul trouble hindered you some in the first couple of games but you’ve managed to avoid it the last few games. Is that a matter of shaking off that rust?
SAMPSON: I definitely think so. I’ve gotten back into the groove. Practice is one part of it, but once you’re in the game you get a little more hyped. I get a little excited playing the game, so I’ve got to control that while I keep my energy level very high. The rust will come off sooner or later. I talked to my dad about it and he said it would come off sooner or later. So I’m not worried too much about that.
TGW: How much do you use your dad as a sounding board?
SAMPSON: I talk to him a lot, pretty much every other day. He doesn’t like getting in my ear about things after the game so he’ll let me digest the game and wait on it a little bit. Then he’ll talk to me and see what I have to say.
TGW: Is it more a case that he wants you to learn lessons yourself by doing than by him telling you?
SAMPSON: He likes to let me learn it by myself sometimes but if he sees he can help me out in different areas he will most definitely speak about it.
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