ANKENY, Iowa — Each day, often shortly after midnight, Madi Robson tweets a number.
For the past few weeks, the recently graduated all-state point guard from Ankeny, Iowa, has been counting down the days until her college basketball career begins for the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The number also indicates the days she has left in her hometown.
“Obviously, I'm going to miss this place,” she said. “It's a dream.”
Located just north of Des Moines, Ankeny is a city of roughly 45,000 people. It's home to one of the largest high schools in Iowa and one of the busiest NCAA Division I recruits in the state.
Robson is more than a basketball player for the Hawkettes. She's a singer, dancer, cheerleader and self-proclaimed Twitter addict who routinely stays up late.
“Sometimes I don't think I know what tired is,” she said. “It's just what I've known. I like to be busy.”
With the schedule she's kept, that's a good thing. It's exhausting to even hear about.
On Mondays during the winter, Robson's dance team held workouts at 6 a.m. She'd head straight to basketball after school before going to three hours of show choir.
“My mom would bring me supper,” she said. “I'd just eat it in the locker room.”
The other days of her week weren't any less demanding.
“That's the commitment,” she said. “That's just life.”
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Robson had her first solo dance competition before she was 3. She eventually gave it up because it began conflicting with basketball. Soccer and track — Robson won multiple state track medals in Iowa's largest class as a freshman and sophomore — also lost out to her favorite sport.
Besides competing for Ankeny, Robson has played club ball for the successful All Iowa Attack program since it began fielding girls teams when she was in fifth grade.
Her love for basketball, she said, came from watching her brother Casey. She developed a passion for show choir from her sister Lexi, a dance performance major who recently graduated from Oklahoma City University.
“I basically have followed in the footsteps of my brother and sister,” she said.
Robson's dedication to basketball and show choir came to an emotional climax the first Friday of March. No. 2 Ankeny was to meet No. 7 Southeast Polk in the Class 5-A semifinals that morning in Des Moines. The show choir was to perform that night in Ankeny.
The senior was committed to both.
The Hawkettes rallied to cut their deficit to two in the closing moments at Wells Fargo Arena. They were forced to foul all-state guard Caitlin Ingle with 5.3 seconds left. She missed both free throws and Ankeny rebounded.
Robson quickly dribbled into the frontcourt but was forced to the left wing by the congestion toward the basket. Closely guarded, she was unable to create the separation needed to get a shot off. The buzzer sounded, ending her outstanding prep career with the ball in her possession.
The 40-38 loss devastated Robson. And she was still slated to perform later that night.
“Wow, it took a lot out of me,” she said. “I was crying right before we hit the first click, turn our heads and hit our positions. I am an emotional person, especially after that loss in my last high school game. I was still replaying the last play in my head over and over again.”
But the show must go on.
Robson didn't disappoint. In the latter stages of the 90-minute performance, she emerged from Ankeny's 54-member choir wearing a gown, heels and full smile. And in front of an audience that was well aware of the day's earlier events, she suppressed her sadness while unleashing a powerful voice on Beyonce's “Sweet Dreams.”
“That was one of the tougher performances I've ever done,” she said. “The whole town knows it and you feel like they're all watching you. They know you can break down any minute.”
It was a unique experience, perhaps rivaled only by similar events from the year before. The state tournament and show choir also fell on the same week. Twice that week, her mom curled her hair at coach Scott DeJong's house while the team watched film of its next foe.
Ankeny lost in the 2012 championship game. Robson performed with the show choir the next day.
“It didn't make it any easier this year, but I guess I'd experienced it the year before,” she said.
Robson's show choir, Visual Adrenaline, placed third in the nation last month. After that, the singer and dancer retired the gown, adding it to the soccer ball, track shoes and cheerleading uniform.
She also quickly pushed aside the idea of taking part in Omaha's “American Idol” auditions in August.
“I don't think it's really hit me yet that I won't perform in front of people again,” she said. “I just dance randomly, in the hallway or around my house. I'll always have that performer in me.
“It's been really weird now to just focus on basketball all the time.”
Robson averaged 7.8 points per game and led Iowa's largest class with 167 assists. She helped her team go 20-5 and reach the 5-A semifinals in what some thought would be a rough year for the Hawkettes.
Her future coach, UNO's Chance Lindley, likes what he's seen of Robson on and off the court.
“Madi is a tremendous person, and she's equally good as a player,” he said. “She's very well rounded. She's been able to balance a lot of things and be very successful at all of them.
“She has a tremendous IQ on the court. And I believe that her best basketball is ahead of her. I think we're going to get an even better Madi in the next four years with us.”
As her daily countdown indicates, those years are rapidly approaching.
The once-a-day messages to her 2,000-plus followers have accounted for a very small percentage of the more than 24,000 tweets Robson has sent in less than three years on Twitter.
“I know, it's bad,” she said. “Some days I've got a lot on my mind and I've just got to put it out there.”
She'll likely have to cut back a bit. Lindley thinks social media has its place, and he's very big on communication. But he said the use of Twitter needs to make sense within the Mavericks' program.
Robson laughed when asked if she could live with a limit, saying her AAU coach once allowed her to tweet only twice per day. And Lindley has no concerns about his recruit's Twitter habit.
“She's a very outgoing young lady, doesn't know a stranger and loves to communicate, which are all very good things,” he said. “We trust Madi. I think we're going to be just fine with her for the next four years.
“She's just a great young lady. We're excited to have her join our basketball family, for sure.”
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