“I was surprised he lasted until the 36th pick,’’ William Stockton, Robinson’s coach at Chalmette High School in Louisiana told MSGNetworks.com.
“After his senior year when he played in those two All-Star games, he was considered a Top 10 pick. For the Knicks to get him in the second round, I’ve said this to several people. It’s a steal.’’
The question, of course, is why did a 7-foot, 215-pound center who was the top shot blocker in Nike youth basketball league history, fall to the second round? He did not play college ball, leaving the team at Western Kentucky twice, and he did not attend the NBA Combine.
It’s not as if NBA teams didn’t about Robinson. He was ESPN’s No. 11 high school recruit as a senior. MSGNetworks.com had him going 25th to the Lakers in our mock draft.
But when a player takes an unorthodox approach to his career – such as Brandon Jennings who played one season in Europe instead of playing in college – it leaves some franchises skittish.
Knicks GM Scott Perry saw Robinson play in two prep All-Star games. He scored 14 points and had three rebounds and three blocked shots in the McDonald’s All America game.
“He was a standout,” Perry said. “[The] most athletic big in the class we felt.”
Robinson said he spent the college basketball season working out every day from 9 to 5.
“The decision was made because I felt I needed to focus on basketball for my career and to get where I want to be moving forward,” Robinson said.
Robinson, 20, might have found a perfect spot with the Knicks, who are committed to building a team with young, athletic players. Knicks backup center Kyle O’Quinn opted out of his contract. Starting center Enes Kanter must decide on his option by Friday, although he has expressed a strong desire to remain in New York.
Robinson, who averaged 25.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, and six blocked shots as a senior at Chalmette, might have an opportunity to see real minutes as a rookie. But Robinson has to prove he’ll be a professional. In the NBA, you don’t walk away and expect there will still be a place on the roster.
Knicks coach David Fizdale was honest when asked how he sees Robinson fitting in.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “The unknown is the fun part about it. He’s a kid. I just went back through some of his film from high school. He has incredible timing. He runs like a deer. He has great hands. And he’s a good kid. Guys like that, I feel like in the right environment, provided the right kind of service, the right coaching staff; those guys find a way to flourish.’’
Stockton said he saw that first hand.
“He was the first player in the gym and the last to leave,’’ he said. “And he got other players to buy in. I think one of the main reasons he’s going to succeed is because he wants to show everyone he belongs in the league.’’