It isn’t often that a college kid as talented as former Michigan star Glenn Robinson III slips all the way to the second round of the draft, as he did back in 2014. Following his freshman season as a Wolverine, Robinson considered putting his name up for draft consideration – and mock drafts at the time suggested that probably would have been a good idea.
Teammate Trey Burke, the star of that year’s Michigan team who helped lead the squad to an NCAA championship appearance, rode that wave of momentum to the NBA lottery in 2013, but Robinson and teammate Mitch McGary, both projected first-round picks, held a joint press conference to announce that they would stay put for one more go at a title. A year later, they were bounced out in the Elite 8, and Robinson finally turned pro.
Leading up to the draft, it certainly looked like Robinson’s status as a first-rounder was safe, especially considering his strong showing at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago that May. He posted the top standing vertical jump of anybody at the event and was toward the top among small forwards in a lot of other categories as well. Still, his sophomore season wasn’t as jaw-dropping as scouts had hoped and that ultimately knocked him down the draft board.
Robinson, though, at 20 years old, went into that event with high hopes that he’d still be a rather high selection.
“I was expecting to go in the first round, but stuff happens, you know?” Robinson told Basketball Insiders. “I was at home for the draft with my mom. It was a little get-together at a banquet hall with family and friends, and it was a good time. But I definitely thought I was going to hear my name called earlier.”
On a night he’d spent much of his life waiting to experience, the minutes felt like hours, making his night a long one.
“It was a while,” he said. “I was so nervous. I went to the bathroom like 15 times just waiting and waiting on my name. I was just excited when my name got called at No. 40 by Minnesota. I really thought I’d be able to go in there and make an impact as a young guy that was [on] a struggling team at the time. Unfortunately I didn’t see a lot of playing time there, but I’m kind of glad for that because it helped me end up here playing for a great program.”
Now a member of the Indiana Pacers, Robinson is playing almost 12 minutes a night in almost every single game, which is a significant jump over the 4.3 minutes per game he played in 25 contests for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season before getting cut toward the end the year.
It was then that he ended up playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, which was like jumping off of the Titanic only to be saved by an even more damaged ship.
“I thought as a young guy I’d be able to go in there, make an impact, show myself and what I can do,” Robinson said of his experience with the Sixers, which sounds an awful lot like what he expected from his experience with the Timberwolves. “[Philadelphia] did give me an opportunity for those last 10 games, so I was happy to be there. I actually got to play, so between Philly and Summer League, that’s how I ended up here with the Pacers.”
Now, even though he’s still fighting for minutes and did spend time in the D-League as recently as December, Robinson feels like he’s found a team that sees him as an honest-to-goodness long-term asset, and that’s something he really appreciates.
“I am getting the chance I deserve here,” Robinson said of Indiana. “That’s the biggest question I get asked, is why didn’t I do it last year? But I think it has a lot to do with my teammates’ confidence in me and the coaching staff having confidence in me and preparing me to have me out there on the court. It’s just been confidence and timing, and here I’ve been given the opportunity.
“It’s good to play a little more. But at the same time, I’m still trying to learn as much as I can when I’m not playing. I’m just getting a little bit better all the time.”
More importantly, he’s out of the doldrums of the league, playing for a team that’s actually winning games and competing seriously for a playoff spot.
“It’s nice to be back on a team that’s winning,” Robinson said. “I’m a winner. Every team I’ve been on before getting to the NBA, I won more than I lost, so this has been fun. We play together, play the right way and hopefully we can win some more ball games and make a big run in the playoffs.”
Now it’s just a matter of becoming a regular, trusted part of Coach Frank Vogel’s rotation. That’s the next step in Robinson’s career, and it’s one he feels like he’s close to achieving.
“Earlier in the year I was in the rotation, so that’s what I want to do,” he said. “I want to get better and continue to get better with my teammates so I can stick in that rotation as we get through the season. That’s my goal, is just to continue to play.”
He hasn’t been a dominant kid, nor has he necessarily played like the lottery pick some thought he might have been once upon a time, but he’s getting better and he’s finding his way in this league after struggling mightily in his rookie season. Clearly, year two has been a completely different ball game.
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