By Jessica Bernheim, UMBC Assistant Director of Athletic Communications
Dec. 2, 2006: it's a day that UMBC's Amanda Robinson won't soon forget.
Playing against Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, N.J., the junior center posted her third career double-double with a personal-best 22 points and 12 rebounds. She seemingly couldn't miss, connecting on 11 of 15 field goal attempts (73.3 percent).
But even more important to Robinson was that she started the game alongside her two best friends and classmates – guards Kristin Drabyn and Morgan Hatten – for the first time ever. The junior trio had started a combined 49 prior games, but never all together.
"I was excited about that game because they were starting with me," Robinson said. "Maybe that contributed to [my performance]."
A 25-game starter as a sophomore in 2005-06, Robinson began this season on the bench while she learned a new position, shifting from center to power forward, a move with which she was never completely comfortable. On this day, however, she would make her second start of the season and the first in her natural five spot.
Hatten had started 11 career games heading into this season but also began the 2006-07 campaign on the bench until replacing incumbent starting point guard, senior Brittnie Hughes, for the game.
Drabyn, on the other hand, spent most of her first two years at UMBC coming off the bench, averaging only 10 minutes per game, but is one of only two Retrievers who has started every game this season and is seeing twice as much playing time as she was previously accustomed.
"It was something that we've talked about before and it meant a lot to us because we've worked hard together and we've gone through a lot in the last three years," Drabyn said.
Since that game, in which the trio combined for 60 percent (47 total) of UMBC's 78 points as Drabyn set a new career high with 16 and Hatten scored a then-season-best nine to go along with Robinson's 22, they have become regulars in the Retrievers' lineup, starting five straight games as of Dec. 19.
"It's special because the three of us play so well together," Drabyn said. "They're my motivation, they're the ones that keep me going, and just to have them out there with me most of the time has helped me out a lot."
"Plus, we already have that chemistry, so it made it a lot easier to get used to playing together, even though we never really had in the past," Robinson added.
And while UMBC head coach Phil Stern is not ready to commit to the trio remaining in the starting lineup for the rest of the season, the Retriever mentor sees no reason why they can't.
"We're still at the stage of the season where we're still trying to figure out what our best combinations are going to be," Stern said. "They are three young ladies that have started prior to this year and have played significant minutes since their freshman year, so they're certainly savvy enough to stay in the starting lineup as we get to America East play."
Starting together is made possible by the fact that they are all different types of players. At 6-foot-3, Robinson is a post presence who ranks in UMBC's all-time top 15 for career blocked shots and is among the rebounding leaders in the America East Conference. Drabyn, a 5-foot-7 shooting guard, does just what her position says – shoots. Through just 10 games, she already ranks in UMBC's top 10 for field goals attempted and three-pointers attempted by a junior. Hatten, a 5-foot-10 combo guard, is a slasher who likes to drive to the basket.
"We've always said we'd be a killer three-on-three team," Hatten said.
Off the court, the trio has lived together since they were freshmen and hit it off from day one, despite coming from very different backgrounds. Hatten is from Potomac, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., while Robinson a native of Lusby, a smaller town in Southern Maryland, and Drabyn hails from the Midwest, growing up in Avon, Ind.
"We thought it was kind of abnormal how fast we clicked," Robinson said.
While Drabyn and Hatten both have two older brothers, Robinson is the second-oldest of five children, but the first person in her entire family to go to college. Next year, however, she will be joined at UMBC by her sister Chrissy, who signed a National Letter of Intent in November to play for the Retrievers.
"The best thing about being able to play with her is knowing that she has me, which is something I didn't have," Robinson said. "I didn't have anybody to talk to. When [Drabyn and Hatten] were having hard times they would call their brothers. I didn't have anybody. I'm excited about just being able to be there for my sister as she's coming into college. I've already experienced everything, and she can learn from that."
While Hatten's older brothers both played collegiate tennis, one at Notre Dame and the other at the University of Virginia, Drabyn comes from a basketball family, as her father coaches at her high school and her brother Steve played four years at Division-I Belmont University and now is an assistant men's basketball coach at Division-II Lees-McRae College. However, Drabyn insists the sport was not forced on her as a child.
"My family did a very good job of letting us do what we wanted to do, what we love," she said. "My oldest brother never played sports; he's a jazz musician. My parents encouraged us to do everything. I fell in love with the game just watching how much passion my brother and my dad had."
"We definitely had a lot to talk about," Hatten said. "I think it's brought us closer together if anything. I love going to Amanda's house and experiencing a different side of life."
"We're very accepting of everybody," Drabyn said. "I think that's a good reason that we get along so well. We love each other's families, we go to each other's houses."
"We can hang out all day every day and never get sick of each other," Hatten added.
That ability was crucial when the threesome decided to road trip to New Orleans last spring break. But instead of spending the week relaxing and partying on Bourbon Street, they used their break to help with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
Along with teammate Stacy Hunt and track and field standout Quiteelia Boyd, they drove 18 hours from Maryland to Louisiana in Robinson's parents' conversion van and spent the week gutting houses in the St. Bernard Parish, one of the most devastated communities. They slept on cots in tents provided by Habitat for Humanity and woke up at the crack of dawn for a full day of work.
"Ever since [Hurricane Katrina] happened I wanted to go," Hatten said. "When we were thinking about what to do for spring break, I realized what better to do [than go to New Orleans]. We'll have fun and help some people. As long as we were together we knew we'd have fun. There's nothing else I would have rather done."
"It was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life," Robinson said. "It really made you put things in perspective with life and how good you really have it and how quick things can be gone."
"It brought us closer together," Drabyn added. "It's great to have best friends who will do stuff like that with you."
Next year, the "goofy class," as Drabyn describes them, will be counted on to provide leadership as seniors, but they believe they are ready for the added responsibility.
"I think we're ready," Drabyn said. "The three of us kind of have a little bit of a leadership role now. It's more of an unspoken leadership role; we lead by example."
"We do have big shoes to fill," Hatten said, referring to two-time team captains Sharri Rohde and Heather Luttrell, who will graduate after the season. "They've been leaders since we were freshmen. But we've watched them, and we try to do as much as we can now. I don't think it will be that much different."