Peyton Robertson was in the stands at North Hall High School last month to see her old team, the Chestatee Lady War Eagles, win the program’s first Lanierland tournament title.
The Young Harris College sophomore said the moment was bittersweet because she wasn’t able to reach that goal in her time at the school, but more than anything she said it was exciting to see the program that she had helped build up take yet another step forward.
“It was awesome. I love that team, I was really proud of the girls and especially for (Chestatee) coach (Web) Daniel,” she said. “All the girls that I graduated with were there, and we all felt kind of bittersweet, but we were really happy that they got that.
“And we left our legacy, I think.”
During Robertson’s time, the young high school program became a regular in the state tournament, winning its first state playoff game in 2009, and giving the new crop of players a firm foundation to build upon.
Now Robertson’s trying to do the same thing with the Lady Mountain Lions, who are in their first season of NCAA Division-II play. Young Harris isn’t yet qualified to go to the postseason — or even the conference tournament — in this stage of the transition process, but the former Chestatee star and her teammates have one big goal in mind.
“We can’t play in the tournament, but can be regular season champions,” she said. “We’ve all been looking at designing rings — we really want that.
“We’ve come into it pretty confident. And we’re pretty deep; we have a whole bench that can play.”
Like the young Chestatee program she first arrived in, Young Harris had just freshmen the year before Robertson arrived as one of the school’s early recruits, but has slowly built itself into a solid program.
Now the team is 7-2 and 1-1 in conference play heading into the bulk of the schedule. Robertson, a 6-foot-1 forward, is second on the team in points scored per game (11.1) and field goal percentage (60.4), and is third in rebounds per game (4.4).
Her coach sees her value in far more than just what she does on the court.
“She’s just a tremendous competitor, a great player who can play in the post and shoot a 3-pointer,” Young Harris coach Brenda Paul said. “And she’s got a 3.5 GPA this semester. She’s driven to excel in basketball and in the classroom.”
Paul credits both Robertson’s high school coach and her family for making her such a good fit for the team.
“When you recruit you try to meet with families, they tell you everything,” Paul said. “She’s a grounded young lady because she’s got a good family.”
Paul was even more impressed when, the day after Robertson signed with Young Harris — then still without a conference to call home as it awaited the move to Division II — Robertson was offered by a Division I school and turned it down because she had already committed.
Roberston added that one of the benefits of going to a smaller school — and a school so close — was to make it easy for her mom, who came to almost all of her high school games, to come see her play often in college as well.
Playing at Young Harris also meant more playing time early, and Robertson has been starting since her freshman season.
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy; Robertson said collegiate basketball has been an adjustment, but she credits Daniel with preparing her well and teaching her moves to use, instead of just allowing her to always rely on her being taller than her competitors, something that wouldn’t always be the case at the next level.
“Coach Daniel taught me a lot of moves in high school, and now I know I can’t just turn around and shoot it, because it’ll get blocked,” said Robertson, who added that her coach would even guard her himself to give her more of a challenge. “I think my moves have really developed.”
Her college coach, Paul, would agree. Robertson was injured early in the season, but Paul said she’s now right back to the level she was playing at last season, a good sign for the Young Harris team and its big goals for the season.