NPH Trailblazers is a North Pole Hoops series, illustrating the careers of influential figures of the past, who have paved the way for the present and future of Canadian basketball.
When your nickname is “Fridge” it usually indicates that you’re relatively large in stature.
According to several basketball observers dating back to the eighties, Wayne Robertson was a man amongst boys.
“Fridge was Charles Barkley before Charles Barkley blew up,” Paul Jones told North Pole Hoops.
Jones (Raptors radio play-by-play announcer), coached Robertson decades ago on the Metro high school all-star team, which would compete against top talent in the U.S.
“People looked at Fridge and said you could out run him…but he was nimble,” said Jones with conviction. “The big guy could really get up and down the floor.”
The wide-framed Robertson, stood a 6’5 for the Runnymede Redmen, and would dominate his competition in high school, which lead him into an accomplished career at New Hampshire College.
Robertson was inducted into the 1999 New Hampshire Hall of Fame after leading the program to 100-28 record, averaging 18.9 PPG, 13.1 RPG.
Back-to-back NCAA DII Final Four appearances and multiple All-American accolades later, Robertson would depart New Hampshire as the program’s all-time leading rebounder, and third all-time leading scorer.
He was unguardable in high school, due to his rare combination of size, strength, versatility and high motor.
“He played hard. It wasn’t about being vocal, or rah rah, he just went out and played his butt off all the time…and not just the game, but in practice too,” said Jones.
A laid back individual, that didn’t say much, but when he spoke, you listened, as he let his game do the talking.
It was in practice that Robertson raised the level of intensity, and gained the respect of his teammates through his work ethic.
“When I say good teammate, I mean when he had to get on guys, he did and when he had to support the coach for a guy that was doing something he shouldn’t be doing…he was that guy,” continued Jones.
Dave Sherwood, a 6’9 centre and former teammate of Robertson at Runnymede, spoke very highly of Fridge.
“I’ve never played with anybody that made his teammates that much better…that’s a big statement for someone that size,” explained Sherwood.
“He had great court vision, and one of the best leaders in the locker room that I’ve ever been around…just a powerful, powerful man…could not be stopped.”
Bathurst Heights VS Runnymede.
That was the showdown that everyone in the Toronto basketball community anticipated. Wayne Robertson VS Phil Dixon.
“Basketball at that time (eighties) was a high point for high school basketball. No matter where we played in Ontario, we knew we would have a crowd,” said Moore.
Jason Gairey, a basketball enthusiast, who at the time, attended multiple schools said that, “If you played at any school you would go to watch just to size up the competition.”
As for his thoughts on Robertson?
“He could really really dominate…there wasn’t anyway you could stop Fridge..he was getting his,” said Gairey.
Even Phil Dixon, who is widely viewed as one of the greatest Canadian high school basketball players of all time, praised Robertson’s ability.
“Don’t sleep on Fridge…ever. I just couldn’t stop him, and he couldn’t stop me,” Dixon told North Pole Hoops.
Sherwood believed that a different time would have yielded much different results.
“He was ahead of his time…if he was playing in today’s game, he is a definite first round draft pick.”
Paul Jones echoed Sherwood’s thoughts.
“I think if he would’ve been in a different era, people would have taken more of a chance with him. The things that we value now, that we’ve learned in basketball, people didn’t always value it back then.”
When asked about why Robertson was not recruited at a higher level, Jones replied, “I think a lot of people were afraid of the unknown. If he had come after a guy like Charles Barkley, who had made it big, it would be different.”
The growth of Canadian basketball is now well documented, as players in today’s era are fortunate enough to reap the benefits of those that came before them.
One can’t help but wonder, “what could have been”, if Canadian talent from the past received the same opportunities today.
That being said, speaking hypothetically only fuels our imagination.
Instead, the reality is that Wayne Robertson is a large part of the historical fabric of Canadian basketball.
Larger than most…that’s why they call him The Fridge.