Sports Person of the Week
Zirlis Ready for Big Senior Season
Senior captain center Robbie Zirlis is looking to lead the Huskies to another big year on the heels of a junior season that saw him garner All-Shoreline Conference accolades. (Photo courtesy of Robbie Zirlis )
Robbie Zirlis is ready as he’s ever been to compete at an elite level for the Morgan boys’ basketball team entering the 2021 high school season. A senior captain center, Robbie took his offseason preparation seriously and is primed to have a big year with the Huskies.
Head Coach Frank Rossi certainly took note of Robbie’s offseason effort. In addition to serving as Morgan’s head coach, Rossi also happens to be Robbie’s uncle.
“Early on, Robbie’s looking bigger, stronger, and faster, and ready to compete at a very high level. He’s made himself into a college-level athlete,” Rossi says. “That being said, Robbie serves as an excellent role model on and off the court to the younger players in our program. He leads by example in so many aspects of the team.”
Robbie has been playing basketball since the 3rd grade. When he first stepped on the court, there was a unique aspect about the sport that “just clicked” for Robbie.
“My dad was a big influence on introducing me to new sports and trying things out, and there was always something about basketball I loved,” says Robbie, who also plays baseball for Morgan. “My favorite aspect of the sport would be the competition and the physicality of the game. It’s a fast-moving game, and I also like the thrill of winning a close game.”
Robbie plays a pivotal role on the court for the Huskies. Last year, Robbie averaged a double-double by scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds per game on his way to earning All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors. Robbie helped Morgan advance to the Shoreline Conference Tournament final and finish the season with an overall record of 16-8.
Coach Rossi says that Robbie’s skills as a basketball player are complemented by the selfless way that he plays the game.
“What’s so remarkable is that Robbie has the talent and ability to take over a game, yet he understands what’s going on around him and tries to make the best play for the team,” says Rossi. “He understands that by doing his part on offense and defense in the paint, it may not lead to great stats or outstanding numbers, but it will create opportunities for his teammates to be successful. He’s the type of player that would trade every point he scores for a win.”
Robbie is especially close with Rossi since the two of them are family, in addition to having a player-coach relationship. Robbie says that Rossi has had a tremendous impact on his success.
“I have a really close relationship with my coach because he is my uncle, so on and off the court, we have a good relationship,” Robbie says. “Even though he is my uncle, he is as tough on me as he is on every other player. I also have a lot of respect for him as a coach.”
Robbie wants to finish his Huskies’ hoops career on a high note by helping Morgan have another solid season this winter. Robbie is also looking forward to competing at the next level in both of his sports at Mitchell College after he graduates.
“I want to end things at Morgan with a winning season,” says Robbie. “I committed to Mitchell College, and I have the unique opportunity to play basketball and baseball for their programs. My expectations are to have a successful baseball and basketball career, while preparing myself academically for the future.”
When he isn’t playing for Morgan, Robbie participates in competitions at local camps. He’s also spent a couple of summers working out with Geary Claxton, an alum of the Penn State men’s basketball team.
Robbie and Coach Rossi both feel confident that the Huskies will see success in 2021 as long as the team stays healthy. Rossi knows that Morgan is in good hands with Robbie leading that charge as a senior captain.
“I’ve been watching Robbie play for a long time, and it’s been fun to see him develop and witness his confidence grow as a player. Now, as a senior, he seems to be embracing that role of leader,” Rossi says. “Every one of his teammates chose him as team captain, and he has really earned the respect of his teammates. He, along with our other seniors, have really set a positive tone during this first week of practice.”