When selecting where she wanted to play her college basketball, New Jersey native Yasmine Robinson-Bacote decided on a change of scene. The 5-foot-11 forward picked Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. She wanted somewhere where she could be a game-changer and help a program develop.

“I wanted to be able to grow on my own as a person and a basketball player,” said Robinson-Bacote. “My parents did a great job of raising me. It was time to put my maturity to the test.”

Under the guidance of first-year head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones, the Waves are playing with a sense of confidence. In the forefront is Robinson-Bacote, the team’s leading scorer, who is averaging a double-double with 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

Robinson-Bacote admires Milton-Jones’ basketball knowledge. The two-time WNBA Champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist willingly shares what she knows with her team, and the players are flourishing.

“It’s been really amazing. She’s so passionate about giving us information and wanting us to be the best that we can be and trying to bring that out of us. It’s really been a great year for myself and the team,” said Robinson-Bacote, a junior.

Freshman year was a bit rough for Robinson-Bacote, who had to learn to be an adult. She also missed her three younger siblings, but FaceTime and Skype have made it easier.

“I have great teammates who helped me adjust,” she said. “They solidified my choice of being here.”

As she was growing up in Hillsdale, N.J., her father was instrumental in fostering her love of basketball. He coached boys’ AAU teams, so she was always around the sport of basketball. She also looked up to Brittney Sykes, who played college ball at Syracuse University and is now a member of the Atlanta Dream.

“She’s an amazing athlete, she can score, she’s the heart of her team and a great leader,” said Robinson-Bacote. “Those are things I wanted to take from her.”

She’ll get to go home for Christmas, but before that there are games to play. After a breakout sophomore year, she has exploded this year after putting in the work during offseason.

“Communication and confidence from the coaches,” said Robinson-Bacote, who is majoring in mathematics and education. “My teammates have done a great job of working hard, so that makes my job a lot easier when they’re just as offensively talented as I am. That gives me freedom to maneuver within the offense.”