Michigan Media Day Basketball (2).JPG
Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III, center, is surrounded by reporters during the team's preseason media day last Thursday at Crisler Center.
((AP Photo/Tony Ding))
So how did it come to pass that Michigan sophomore Glenn Robinson III is now doing some social media mingling with one of the NBA’s biggest superstars?
Let’s start in Washington D.C.
Robinson was at the Kevin Durant Skills Camp on the last weekend of June, making the trip to D.C. to battle some of the top college wings in the country. He was joined by the likes of Duke’s Jabari Parker, Tennessee’s Jordan McRae, Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early and Kentucky’s Alex Poythress, among a slew of others.
Now Robinson is no stranger to NBA stars. His father was a two-time all-star in an 11-year career in the league. Seeing NBAers is old hat, but Kevin Durant is no ordinary star. He stands shoulder to shoulder with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the game’s active icons.
So Robinson tried to play it cool when Durant approached him in D.C.
“I didn’t even know he knew me, so surprisingly he knew who I was and said he was watching my games,” Robinson recounted last week.
That’s not all. Durant lobbed praise, too. He complimented Robinson’s defense after the two squared off on the court.
“We were matching up against each other and I got a lot of stops and I gained his respect,” Robinson said.
Last week, Robinson messaged Durant on Twitter, writing, “Whats up bro, just wanted to say goodluck on the season. I respect what you did at your camp this season..Meet you at the top soon.”
“No doubt,” Durant replied. “Good luck to u too I’ll see u soon.”
Soon after, Robinson took a picture of the conversation and posted it to Instagram because, really, who would believe that?
This is the atmosphere Robinson now operates in -- interlacing with NBA stars and living with the expectations of being projected as an NBA lottery pick in the 2014 draft.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward averaged 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 33.6 minutes per game as a freshman. It was a nice year, but he admittedly benefited from the bulwark of playing alongside 2013 NBA first-round picks Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
That was then, though, and this is 2013-14. Things are different. Now Robinson is “the man” for a Michigan team ranked in the preseason top 10. He feels the expectations. He hears the NBA chatter.
“A lot of distractions -- a lot of talk about the NBA and this or that,” Robinson said of Michigan’s preseason. “I’m just continuing to stay focused and stay in the gym, do the right things.”
The right things entail improving his assertiveness, ball-handling, perimeter shooting and on-ball defense. As U-M’s No. 3 option a year ago, Robinson’s stats fluctuated wildly. He scored two points at No. 8 Michigan State, then 21 against Penn State. He scored 13 in the regular-season finale against No. 2 Indiana, then five against Penn State in the Big Ten tournament.
Coach John Beilein cites Robinson’s old role as the Wolverines’ glue guy for the erratic production.
“I'd bet a game where Glenn scored four, Trey probably scored 30,” the coach said.
To Beilein’s point, Burke averaged 20.3 points (3.4 points more than his season average) in the 12 games Robinson scored eight points or less. The problem, though, is that Michigan was 3-5 in the eight Big Ten games in that grouping.
Meaning, when Robinson was down, so were the Wolverines.
That can’t be the trend in 2013-14. No room exists for down days and everyone knows it, especially Robinson.
“Last year at this time I kind of fell back because of all the leaders we had on the team,” he said. “I didn’t have to be that. This year I believe I have to be that guy. I have to lead this team.”
Beilein has noticed the difference both in Robinson’s leadership and play.
"The things he is doing right now with his game are things that he never even dreamed of doing last year,” Beilein said.
That’s nothing new. He hadn’t dreamed of glad-handing with Kevin Durant, either.
But that's life for Glenn Robinson III. Nowadays, everyone knows who he is.