“ESNY Graphic” by Robby Sabo is licensed under Getty Images
Family members and friends jump out of their seats and roar with glee. As his name is announced with the 37th pick, Mitchell Robinson grins ear to ear and accumulates friction by rubbing his hands together, ready to pounce at his next challenge. That’s nothing new. For Robinson, life has always been about the consequent challenge. From facing discord after committing to Western Kentucky to bypassing his college career, obstacles are recurrent.
A WWLTV reporter interrogates Robinson, “What are you going to bring to the New York Knicks?”
Robinson could not help himself, “Hopefully a ring. I will work hard and get in there,” he told the reporter.
Sprouting like weeds in an unkempt lawn, Robinson grew from 6’2’’ to 7’0’’ in his high school career. Robinson is mostly novel to the game, belatedly starting in eighth grade. As a high school senior, he averaged more than 25 points, 12 rebounds with 6 blocks per game on his way to earning a myriad of awards. Robinson was a McDonald’s All-American, Jordan Brand Classic participant and earned recognition on the honorable mention list of Naismith Trophy contestants.
Proletarian thought assumed he would be playing for blue-collar teams. Even with all those awards, Robinson chose to play in Bowling Green, Kentucky, 2 and a half hours from his speculated destination, Lexington, Kentucky. He made the decision based on the anticipation of Rick Stansbury, once revered Texas A&M assistant coach, was jettisoning to Western Kentucky to become head coach of the Hilltoppers. Stansbury recruited Robinson to Texas A&M, and Robinson admired his style.
Unfortunately, Robinson never suited up in a Hilltopper uniform. He practiced with the team for a swift two weeks, surely dominating the competition. Yet next thing he knew, his once dirty room was swept clean. He found out his eligibility was suspended by the team. His opportunity to play in college was gone with the wind.
And just like that, it has been a whole year since Robinson laced up his shoes and shot a basketball in an active game. Training sessions against unmatched opponents, or lifeless chairs, and blacktop games were in the cards as Robinson hammered away at a seemingly impossible dream. He could not even go pro, with complicated G-League rules renouncing his qualification as well.
The reported probed the former McDonald’s American again. He knew onlookers questioned the temperament of the vastly unknown player, “What type of player are (the Knicks) going to get?”
It’s difficult to give credence to the plausibility of Robinson’s answer. Even so, the boy from Pensacola stared down the small-scaled reporter, staring into his eyes with an aura of aplomb and coolness.
He thought aloud, “A committed player.”
While his story is evocative of Anthony Davis, outstanding elements deviate. His skills are vastly unrefined, but his instincts are posh and precise. He blocks shots that look unreachable, stretching his arms From stem to stern, Robinson’s arms reach 7’4.” Somehow, his arms weren’t even the most elongated in the draft. That title belongs to Mo Bamba.
This time a year ago, onlookers compared Bamba and Robinson. Placed into the same tier as other big men, Robinson ranked 11th in ESPN 100 rankings while Ayton was 3rd, Bamba was 4th, and Carter was 5th. For the most part, he ran the show in competitions. He scored more points than Ayton and Carter Jr. in the McDonald’s All-American game and more than Bamba and Carter Jr. in the Jordan Brand Classic.
On multiple occasions, the big man from Pensacola exhibited more defined dexterity than the aforementioned college superstars. Mitchell turned swatting shots into an art form, illustrating a monochrome graphic of highlight reel worthy of plays. He recorded 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes, setting a record for the tournament. By cementing a legacy at one of the highest prestige tournament, Robinson became a legend in folklore. And he has remained that way ever since. Every scout and GM wants to know: Could he manifest his legend status?
David Fizdale and the organization have a conviction that their project will pay off. However, fitting Robinson into the starting lineup will be like fitting a quart into a pint pot. Porzingis retains his position as center and Kevin Knox is a matchup nightmare at power forward. Assuredly, Knox can slide down to the 3, but he has played tremendously in substantial minutes at the 4 this Summer.
Howbeit, Fizdale is a scientist when it comes to lineup experiments, moving big men around in an unconventional manner. He even said that Luke Kornet, Porzingis, Knox, and Robinson, will share the floor at particular times this coming season. It will be intriguing to see if this lineup is more of a writhing headache for hopeless Knicks fans or opponents, who will be tasked with playing chess in a game of checkers.
While Fizdale’s assurance may be a reach of the imagination, it is not crazy to believe Robinson can be used as a weapon of mass destruction alongside Porzingis. In high school games, Robinson displayed dribbling skill reminiscent of today’s modern bigs.
Even so, growing pains are foreseen for the developing big man. By focusing on the little things, he will build on a foundation of raw talent. Like a locked character, actually playing the game is most significant to realizing the fullest potential. Due to poor conditioning, Robinson hacked offenders to a tune of 9 fouls. Even then, his outlook to basketball is glass half-full. “Just giving them energy and trying to get the team pumped up.”
The next challenge on Robinson’s plate is to prove he belongs in a league full of athletes. Robinson fits in as an athlete but could be so much more. “Is this a dream come true for you?”
The boy from Pensacola answers humbly and briskly, “Yes sir.” Robinson craves for an opportunity, determined to overcome his next obstacle.