Robert Dillingham’s Star is on the Rise

Jason Jordan

Robert Dillingham knew something that everyone else didn’t; more stealth than overt, but he knew. 

A productive freshman year with Combine Academy (Charlotte, N.C.), caused the proverbial “click” in Dillingham’s head which birthed a mentality… The mentality.

“I’m always in kill mode now,” Dillingham said. “I started working out more and I started seeing results. It gave me a crazy confidence. I’m just different mentally and that makes my game different.”

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His numbers this summer give whole new life to the old hoops cliché that “basketball is 85 percent mental.”

Dillingham is torching the competition for 33 points a game while running with the Asheville Gamechangers (N.C.) who often times play up two grade levels. In his last tournament, Dillingham averaged more than 40 points a game and followed that up with a career-high 56-point outburst in one game.

In a pandemic summer, Dillingham’s name has been the most consistent in terms of dominance on social media platforms for everything from jaw-dropping highlights to big scoring outputs.

Robert Dillingham
Dillingham draws comparisons to NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. Jeff McInnis

It’s no wonder that Dillingham’s Combine Academy coach Jeff McInnis compares him to NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.

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“He reminds me so much of Chuck (Iverson) in the way he plays and his confidence,” McInnis said of Dillingham. “He just gets it done in every way and he can light you up for a lot of points. He wants to be great. He’s just got it.”

College coaches concur, jumping in early for who Hoop State Network director of operations Ray Maisonet calls “easily” the top player in North Carolina in the 2023 class. Everyone from North Carolina to Wichita State to Louisville to UCLA to Kansas, among many others, have expressed interest in the 6-foot-2 shifty playmaker.

“He has proven that he is fearless under the pressure of the bright lights delivering consistently throughout the entire high school season,” Masionet said. “During this recent AAU period he has been unstoppable. He averaged 40-plus points in one weekend and the following weekend, he had a game where he dropped 56 one game and 46 in a championship game. Teams truly have no answer for him.”

Dillingham is well aware of the advantage having McInnis, a former star point guard at North Carolina and in the NBA, as a coach provides him; not just for his experience and wisdom, but also for his straight talk, nonsense nature.

“He doesn’t care if you’re the best player or the last player on the bench, he comes at you the same,” Dillingham said. “I love that because it keeps me grounded. He plays a big role. He’s already been there, how could you not listen to him.”

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McInnis sees Dillingham as a throwback, combining unmatched work ethic and sponge-like attentiveness to create a gifted three-level scorer with a devastating mix of speed and shiftiness.

“Most kids play when they have to play, but this kid wants to play every second of the day,” McInnis said. “He’s different, he’s old school. It didn’t matter if we were playing the No. 1 team in the country or a team we should beat, he competes as hard as he can all the time.”

And therein lies the key to Dillingham’s rapid ascension this summer; all summed up in one word: Relentless.

“I’m just gonna keep coming,” Dillingham said. “I want to win so bad whenever I play, against whoever I play that I don’t stop. I won’t stop. That’s all I know.”