Don’t Call Me Next
Robert Upshaw is making a big name for himself in San Joaquin.
San Joaquin Memorial has been the biggest basketball hotbed in the city for over a decade now. It’s a pretty easy claim when you produce three NBA players in four years. The New Orleans Hornets’ Quincy Pondexter and 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez all graced the halls during the mid 2000s. Naturally, when another 7-footer pops up at San Joaquin, the projections about being the “next” will be thrown around. Robert Upshaw doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to establish his own legacy.
“There’s no pressure for me to be the next Brook or Robin Lopez,” explained Upshaw. “I’m my own individual and we play completely differently. I don’t want to be the next Brook Lopez; I want to be the first Robert Upshaw.”
He added, “I’ve actually only seen them (the Lopez twins) around my school a couple of times. I have a much closer relationship with Quincy Pondexter. He gives me advice all the time and has taught me to stay hungry, humble, and ruthless.”
The top unsigned center [Upshaw just committed to Kansas State—Ed.] in the country didn’t make his transfer to San Joaquin solely because of athletics or the schools NBA pipeline, though. Smaller class sizes, more attention from both teachers and coaches, and proximity to home all played key parts in his decision to transfer from Edison High School. But the decision roll over to San Joaquin didn’t come without consequences. Upshaw was forced to miss out his entire junior season due to CIF transfer rules.
“It was difficult, but the practices got me better and I made it through,” Upshaw lamented after averaging 20 points, 10 boards and 6 blocks as a sophomore. “It got me ready for the AAU season and the training really helped me get my weight up.”
Along with a new high school came a new AAU team for Robert, who spent this summer running with Las Vegas-based Dream Vision. Possibly the most loaded AAU team in the country, Dream Vision had current SLAM diarist Shabazz Muhammed, Delante Dunklin, Winston Shephard, Demetris Morant and Joe Rahon (who Upshaw calls “the top white boy in the country”). He had amazing times traveling the country with the adidas-based program, especially to Atlanta where he loved the southern hospitality he received. You’d think that on a loaded team like that, things would come a little easier for a big man who can finish around the rim, right? Wrong.
“It really didn’t make things easier playing with Shabazz; It actually made it harder. With all of the guys we had, it’s hard to get yours,” Upshaw clarified about playing alongside Muhammed and the rest of the star studded cast. “Winston, Joe, and Delante Dunklin were our main assist guys. Shabazz and I were the finishers.”
Naturally, you’re going to attract hella college attention as an athletic 7-footer playing on a team like that. With the early signing period coming to an end shortly, Robert told SLAMonline that he his college decision came down between Kansas State, Georgetown, Fresno State and Louisville. Most true centers opt for programs that have NBA pipelines for centers, but he’s looking to start his own pipeline, rather than follow in the footsteps of others, stating, “I don’t care what players have come out of a school. I’m not picking a school for who came out of there. I’m picking a school for what I’m going to do there.”
At nearly 275 pounds and every bit of 7-feet tall, the Andrew Bynum comparisons are spot on for Upshaw. He’s got great heart, looks to dunk everything around the rim, and possesses an enormous frame that could easily add another 20 pounds, if desired. The big fella even has a surprising touch out to 17 feet when facing the basket to go along with the imposing physical presence that he provides on the defensive end. There’s still considerable room for improvement in terms of footwork on the blocks and post moves, but the potential is there for him to be the first, not the next.
“It’s nice saying the Lopez twins went to my school, but five years from now, I want kids to be saying that they went to the same school as Robert Upshaw.”