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April 19, 2012

Looking At James Robinson

Filed under: Basketball,Players — Chas @ 10:07 am

So, Pitt has a 4-star point guard coming in for the fall. I’m sure people are doing fine at tempering their expectations. Not claiming that the kid can and should be the starter immediately. Not projecting too much on him right away. Being realistic that averaging around 15-20 minutes per game would be about what is reasonable and a good sign that he will be a vital part of the team for 2012 and beyond.

Right?

Well, here’s a really good scouting report on where James Robinson is, after practicing and playing with other top players at the Nike Hoops Summit last week.

A quintessential Pitt Point Guard, James Robinson (#45 ESPN, #79 Scout, #58 Rivals) showed quite a bit of intrigue throughout the week in practice and played the role of deferential facilitator during the Hoop Summit game. A late addition to the US roster after Marcus Paige suffered a stress fracture in his left foot, Robinson was perhaps the least highly touted player on the US Junior Select Team, but impressed over the course of the practices with his leadership on the floor and overall skill level.

Presence and leadership. Check.

Standing 6’2 with a ready-made frame for the college game, Robinson does not have elite quickness or explosiveness, but is a decent athlete across the board. He compensates for his lack of elite quickness by playing the game at different speeds and using his strength and toughness to his advantage when driving the lane.

Translation to cliche-speak: Crafty. Already strong enough to play right away.

A capable ball-handler with good fundamentals, Robinson has the makings of a solid distributor at the next level. He is by no means a flashy passer who will break down defenders in one-on-one situations, but he plays disciplined basketball, organizes his teammates, does what his coaches ask of him, and looks to find the open man. We didn’t get to see much of that in the actual Hoop Summit game due to the highly disorganized nature of his team’s offense, but that was extremely evident in the practice sessions leading up to the game.

Takes direction well. Knows how to run a team, and a good passer. It matches much of what has been described of Robinson before this. That he is a team player. More translation to cliche-speak: plays the game the right way.

As a scorer, Robinson shows the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc in catch and shoot situations, and displays a knack for using his strength around the rim. He’s not a creative finisher, and his lack of great speed limits his ability to get out in transition prolifically or beat opponents off the dribble regularly in the half-court, but his shooting ability is a major plus, as his consistent, reliable mechanics will keep defenders honest at the next level.

Strong enough to attack the basket, but not exactly fast enough to blow by them. Good shooter and range, though, should give him chances to either shoot or drive depending on which option the defender is trying to deny. Very encouraging. Add in the fact that he can handle catch-and-shoot opportunities and it bodes well when Pitt needs to have more ball handlers on the court (i.e., facing teams that press) without sacrificing as much on offense.

Defensively, Robinson plays with good intensity and doesn’t give up anything easy. His quickness is not great, and he doesn’t have a long wingspan (measured 6-2 ½), but he’s a tough and team-oriented player on this end of the floor –two things that should endear him to Jamie Dixon early in his Pittsburgh career.

That description, essentially nails what Coach Dixon wants on defense. Keeps the man in front of him, doesn’t take unnecessary chances on defense.

Though Robinson lacks the physical tools of an elite prospect, his efficient style of play is rather rare for a point guard his age. If he can develop his scoring ability a bit, his low-mistake style of basketball could make him a valuable commodity for the Panthers as they transition to the ACC, and possibly help him emerge as a legit NBA prospect down the road.

Basically that report reads like Robinson and Pitt are a perfect match. His game is very much what Coach Dixon wants. Not to mention, what Pitt fans have appreciated when Brandin Knight and Levance Fields ran the point. Efficient offense and limiting mistakes.

It also reads as a review of a player who won’t and shouldn’t be expected to be the starting point guard in his freshman year. The good news, is he doesn’t seem worried about that. Part of why he chose Pitt, is because of the player development. His high school coach mentions how Pitt and Robinson are a perfect match, and as a player that always wants to work on his game. To get better not just as a player but for the whole team.

Robinson has always been a hard worker, [DeMatha teammate, Kameron] Taylor said, calling the point guard the team’s “role model.” Even when the players are exhausted, Robinson is the team member who keeps pushing them in practice.

He began his high school career as a shooting guard while waiting for his turn to take over the team. Now, he has a commanding and dominating presence on the court, [DeMatha head coach Mike] Jones said, and puts his teammates in the position to do what he wants them to do.

Off the court, Jones called Robinson laid back and quiet, although not shy — a man who doesn’t have to talk much, but is still the “alpha dog in the room.”

“He’s the one everybody watches for ‘What is James doing? How is James behaving? How is James reacting?’” Jones said.

He’s the player who shows up in the gym in the morning before school and stays after practice to put up extra shots. Jones stressed that in Robinson’s case, “hard worker” isn’t just a phrase.

To say that this article will make you very optimistic for Robinson’s future at Pitt is probably an understatement.





I wish Tino had some of these intangibles most notably a ‘good passer’, ‘reliable mechanics’, and ‘low mistake style.’ Seems like Robinson will make a very good general on the court. Do you think he can play QB?

Comment by TX Panther 04.19.12 @ 10:43 am

Lavance Fields and Shawn Miller weren’t the quickest point guards in the league, but they both could really quarterback the team. If James Robinson is that kind of player, then he will do very well at Pitt. The point guard has so many important things that he needs to be good at, speed to blow by everyone, isn’t as important as getting the ball to right people and not turning the ball over. The pointguard is the heartbeat of any good basketball team. If James Robinson can remind us of Branden Knight, Lavance Fields or Shwan Miller, I’m ok with that.

Comment by Justinian 04.19.12 @ 11:23 am

Zing!

Comment by AlexVP 04.19.12 @ 11:27 am

He’s gonna be a good one. And he’ll be even better if he brings high school teammate Beejay Anya with him!

Comment by Greg 04.19.12 @ 11:31 am

Wow the Pitt News did a great job with that.

Comment by Joe 04.19.12 @ 11:39 am

I’m so thankful we’re bringing on a leader for the future, its something I really feel like we lacked this year, especially when Woodall was out. It was very clear that the team lacked some inner leadership. We have good kids on our team, i’m proud to say, and I’m glad to see Jamie keeps bringing in the class. H2P

Comment by Benzene 04.19.12 @ 11:40 am

Great recruiting class, especially if you count Zeigler.

Admas is the better player right now and will have a bigger impact next year. But Robinson will have a bigger impact on the program long term. He will be here for 4 years, starting for 3+. Having a reliable PG IS like having a good qb, it is critical.

Hope he and Tino aren’t the same size. Both are listed at 6’2″. Tino is closer to 5’10″. Robinson didn’t look that big in the game I saw on ESPN. He was the same height as the NC recruit (listed at 6’0″) he played against.

Is Robinson coming to Greentree? Hope they put him on the same team as Adams. That would fun to watch. Also, for Adams to stay a second year (as unlikely as that is) he’ll need to love it here. Having a friend like Robinson would help.

Robinson’s team (maybe PGT Trucking) will be the favorite to win the summer league. It is a guards league and a guard with his kind of leadership should be able to get the most out of his teammates. Can’t wait.

Chas is right, we should NOT expect him to start immediately at Pitt. But a reasonable expectation would be 15+ SOLID minutes off the bench. Maybe even some two guard? Sounds like he could be an option there, lord knows we need one.

Sounds like he’s the prototypical Pitt point guard, tough, smart, winner not flashy.

Comment by boubacar aw 04.19.12 @ 12:11 pm

If he even ends up close to Brandin Knight, I’ll be thrilled.

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 04.19.12 @ 12:44 pm

I’m very intrigued to see Pitt with inside-outside options. Adams WILL command a presence inside, and I don’t think he’s going to be shy about passing it back out for an open shot, that is, when he’s not making easy dunks on the inside.

Comment by Lou 04.19.12 @ 12:50 pm

Can’t wait for Greentree. Sucks that Moore won’t be there, but looking forward to getting a heavy dose of Adams, Robinson, D. Johnson, and Jones.

Do I understand that Fields, G. Brown, and Wannamaker will be there as well? Something like that should go a long way with guys like Adams and Robinson.

Comment by Carmen 04.19.12 @ 2:03 pm

I have been a proponent of Robinson from the beginning because I like his fundamentals, so much so I got one of my usual demeaning shots (you must be his agent). Seeing Robinson in videos he possess something lacking among all Pitt guards including Woodall he will need little coaching concerning how to master the fundamentals of the game.

I do disagree with the comarison to Fields, Robinson has a completely different mind set. He is a team player. I do not expect him ever to proclaim “this is his team, like Woodall or Fields” or destroy any opportunity to score at the end of the half or game by dribbling around until the shoot clock expires and throwing up a hail mary.

When has Woodall been a threat in driving to the hoop. He is a liability because of his size and ego to always overplay his man, as well as lack of strength to fight through picks. Woodall is not a team player and probably is the first to grab the stat sheet after the game.

Start Robinson from the beginning. Woodall peaked in high school. Take a look at his scoring in 2011-2012, he ran up his points per game in the non-conference schedule and against the bottom feeders in the big-east (2 games). His average without those games out was consistently under 10 points despite playing 35 minutes per game. His assists under 5.

Comment by drw 04.19.12 @ 2:24 pm

Justinian — agreed, except I might change the analagy from “hearbeat” to “brain” of any good basketball team.

Dont think the problem with Pitt this past year was heart (other than maybe Gibbs…more on that in a sec) but more so it was brains. Out of sync, uncertainty, lack of confidence, etc.

Woodall’s injury was a big part, a disruptoin. But also think Woodall’s personality wasnt the right match for the moment. Which sounds weird to say because he’s a leader by trait and has a history of being mature beyond his years. He talked like he was a leader, was probably the most vocal on the team, at least in the media. But there was a weird relationship with Gibbs and then also he was pressing too hard when he came back to try to be the teams savior when he just does have the skills to be that guy.

Not that it would have saved the year (after all we had no Center) but having a more steady PG would have helped.

I know, applying my sports psychology might be a little silly and useless. My thoughts.

Boubacar — also agree, I think. Robinson is likely to be a steady force through 4yrs (esp helping with the transition to the ACC), while Adams is lightening in a bottle. That said, Adams can do a lot to raise the profile of the program. It terms of building Pitt’s future this class is really great in both respects.

Comment by PantherP 04.19.12 @ 2:48 pm

Drw, woodall had a severe injury and came back too soon injuring himself even more. Not only did he not practice, his conditioning went to hell too…which he played through because Pitt could not afford to have him on the bench. He was pitt’s best player by far pre-injury and I expect him to be a pretty good player next year.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 04.19.12 @ 3:09 pm

I say, play him and start him against the weaklings of the non-con schedule. You’re going to win those games anyway, right ? Let’s get him up to speed for the conf. schedule. Surely we know by now what Woody can & can’t do. And one of the things he can do is produce lots of turnovers, with sloppy ballhandling and very soft passes. That can only be eliminated or at least cut down some by limiting his minutes.

By starting and giving Robinson the majority of the minutes against the weaklings of the non-con, you can find out right away whether he can be the man for the conf. part of the schedule. Plain & Simple. Woody would then be a nice spark coming off the bench, which was he rule the majority of his career, as he was even the 6th man his senior year in HS.

That about sums it up !

Comment by Emel 04.19.12 @ 3:11 pm

ESPN is reporting Woodall will undergo surgery to repair the abdominal hernia plaguing him all year. Apparently he really wasnt all the way healed (just as we suspected).

Woodall was statistically the best player in the non-conf. Thats comparing apples to apples the rest of the teams stats. But his TO problem was there even then in non-conf, just not as bad.

But DRW, you’re right to a degree, just hink you’re a little harsh on trey. He definitely needs to understand his role this year(facilitator not creater).

Emel – after this year can you say for certain that we’ll win our non-conf games this year? (actually probably yeah, no one is stopping Adams during that stretch). I would like to see a lot of Robinson in non-conf.

Best case scenario is Woodall fixes his glaring flaw such that we have an experienced, mature leader at PG, with a solid back-up in Robinson who can take the reigns as a sophomore. Likely case is Woodall continues with TO problem, Dixon sticks with him, Pitt fans resent him by end of the year.

Comment by PantherP 04.19.12 @ 3:35 pm

Prior to the injury Woodlall was haveing an excellent season. Of course he rushed thing by coming back too early, but the team had taken a nose dive and it’s tough to sit out when you see that happen. To his credit he played hurt after he came back. Hopefully he’ll have healthy and solid senior season next year. They will have greater depth at the point position with James Robinson who will be able to spell Travon Woodall while he learns the system.

Comment by Justinian 04.19.12 @ 6:26 pm

ROBINSON WILL BE STARTER BYE THE 12 GAME

Comment by Frankcan 04.19.12 @ 7:48 pm

I say play he player who earns it and gives us the best chance to win. If we don’t like football coaches awarding positions without competition, why not ask the same from b-ball coaches.

There should be enough minutes to go around to develop a freshman, especially if Zeigler is not eligible.

Comment by Bowling Green Panther 04.19.12 @ 9:44 pm

In my opinion the injury was not the problem for Woodll it was simply that when he came back he was playing against the big boys and his performance reflected his ability to be effective at that level last year.

Comment by drw 04.20.12 @ 9:46 am

I agree with BGP but one of Jmmies glaring weaknesses in my opinion that has kept him at the B level as a coach is his fear of playing talented freshman over upperclassman who have reached their ceiling.

Jamie loves to go into January undeafted – (11-1) this year rather than building for the stretch.
We all know based on his sophmore and junior years statistics Woodall will equal any point production in conference games with turnovers and getting torched by his man. Taking this reality into fact Woodall is a negative producer against eig eat guards.

Let Robinson play the non-conference were Woodall builds up his statistics. I think we are all in agreement that it is likely that Robinson is not going to turn the ballover as much by being constently manuvered by his opponent to the sideline for the double team because he believes he can beat anyone playing him man to man.

Comment by drw 04.20.12 @ 10:03 am

Do we have a 6’4″ or 6’5″ shooting guard coming too?? I thought I read that??? Or were original reports that Robinson was 6’4″ and i’m just getting the pg/sg wrong???

If so, how’d he get down to 6’2″ in a month??

I think I just have too many names in my head from hoops and spring football.

Someone set me straight please!

Comment by Dan 04.20.12 @ 11:21 am

Zeigler is a 6’5″ shooting guard. He is a transfer from central Michigan. Probably won’t be eligible until ’13/’14 season. He has asked for a waiver of the one year waiting period on transfers because his father, the cmu coach, was fired.

He was a top 25 prospect coming out of high school a few years ago, but has not yet lived up to the lofty expectations. Will still be a huge upgrade over current crop of shooting guards on pitt’s roster.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 04.20.12 @ 2:07 pm

Thanks B.A., that’s him. Then there was another guy Chas’ posted about, about the same time, Savon Goodson, Goodman?? Something like that. Are we still possible for him as of late??

Comment by Dan 04.20.12 @ 11:02 pm

Savon Goodman is a 6’6″/6’7″ forward that Pitt is recruiting but it loks like he might go a year to prep school instead… May be a recruit next year.

Comment by Bowling Green Panther 04.21.12 @ 11:34 pm

I’d say it’s more than a little unfair to expect this kid to be Brandin Knight — his jersey is hanging from the rafters in the Pete. If I remember correctly, Travon was a four star recruit and was the next Brandin Knight before he arrived at Pitt. Travon is an exceptional leader and all the guys looked up to him last year. His injury affected his play dramatically — for god’s sake, he just had surgery to repair a sport’s hernia. Playing point guard becomes very difficult without any post presence. Let’s see how he does next year with a legit center, backup center, and two power forwards with experience.

As for Dixon not playing “talented freshmen,” I want to hear examples. Dejuan played and started immediately. Khem Birch started almost immediately. Sam Young was raw and unpolished, though should have been starting his sophomore year. Aaron Gray was a major project. I hear this argument all the time, but can’t think of anybody outside of Young his sophomore year that didn’t get the minutes he deserved.

I remember the end of the Paul Evans era and the Ralph Willard era all too well. The criticism of Jamie Dixon is absurd. Pitt has had three second round NBA picks compared to the teams they compete against in the Big East with multiple lottery picks. Heck, even Butler had more NBA players than Pitt. Getting big time talent — which Dixon is starting to do — is the next step for the program. Let’s give Jamie a chance to coach superior talent before we judge him as a coach.

Comment by Denny 04.22.12 @ 7:10 am

Amen, Denny.

Comment by Bowling Green Panther 04.22.12 @ 9:13 am

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