Even Jamel McLean was vexed by the inconsistency of Jeff Robinson's play.
As we struggle through the hottest summer that most Ohioans can remember, college basketball seems a long way off. Currently, our best athletes are engaging the best from the rest of the world in an Olympics marred only by the tape delay debate and the insufferable attitude of Ryan Lochte. While they carry the banner in the cool climes of London and the sort of surrounding areas, back here at home the Xavier Musketeers are sweating off any remaining cheesy fries weight as summer leagues kick into full gear.
To prepare for the 2012-13 season, we've been previewing all the returning players in our Summer Camp series. Dee Davis is perhaps the key on which the season will turn, and Joel took a look at where he needs to improve. Next came a breakdown of Brad Redford, and the ways in which the sharpshooting two guard can help a team that isn't quite so happy to simply dribble. Justin Martin and Dez Wells hit our camp last week. Martin, full of potential but seemingly unwilling to work on it, came under the microscope for his effort. There isn't much keeping Dez from being the next Xavier superstar, but maybe some extra work from deep and at the line wouldn't hurt. This week brings Jeff Robinson and Travis Taylor, and the difference between frustrating and disappointing.
Jeff Robinson looks like a basketball player. Were you to pass him in a mall, there would be no doubt in your mind what he did. Last year when I had a look at Robinson's game, I noted that he could some time shooting the ball, both in game and out, and get out of his own head and simply play the game. A year later and, frustratingly, it doesn't seem like Robinson has changed all that much. Now heading into his senior year, Jeff still seems to be the same person caught between being a game changing monster, and a being a boy among men.
Robinson's minutes dropped last year with the arrival of Dez Wells and Travis Taylor, and there was a commensurate dip in his numbers. 3.6/2.9/0.1 aren't the stuff of dreams, but it was the way they were accumulated that was, as usual, the issue. When Robinson played himself into the game and took six or more shots, he averaged 9.8 points per game. In those games in which Robinson shot six or more times, his rebounding numbers also jumped to four a game. In short, when Jeff was in the flow of the game, he was effective.
When Robinson wasn't shooting, he generally wasn't involved. Despite being every bit of 6'8" tall, Jeff averaged 2.7 rebounds in the games with fewer than six shots taken. In those same games, he averaged 2.5 points. Those 31 games are sort of the story of Jeff Robinson. Capable of playing very well, he frequently seems as if he has forgotten how to. In a two week stretch from Jan 11 to Jan 25, he was shooting more frequently, and playing very well off the bench. As quickly as that burst came though, it went, and Jeff disappeared back into yawning depths of the Xavier bench.
So where does that leave the Indianpolis native this summer? Isaiah Philmore's arrival and the continued development of Dez Wells, combined with the presence of Travis Taylor, does not augur well for Robinson's minutes. For Jeff to be useful, he has to simply play the game. A year later, and the moments that still define Jeff are the dominating performance against La Salle, followed by the half travelling, lob pass turnover that iced Xavier's only loss of 2010-11 conference play. Robinson is at his very best, which can be quite good, when he plays on instinct, treating a Division I game almost as if it were pickup ball at his local YMCA.
The second thing Robinson could do to improve his chances would be to focus on his strengths. Despite being willowy in build, Jeff can be very effective close to the basket. His 53% mark from the floor is testament to the fact he is capable of making buckets when in his comfort zone. Increasingly, that seems to be when has the ball near the rim. At least once a game though, Robinson insists on taking a jumper. When he inevitably misses, his confidence seems to visibly drain from him. Players who are going to get 20+ minutes a game are expected to have fully developed games. A player who will be lucky to get 10-15 minutes needs to only have one very good method of scoring to be effective. For Robinson, that is getting the ball down low and getting at the rim quickly.
You'll know it is working when: Jeff has a good game.
You should worry if you see: Jeff having a bad game.
That may seem a bit evasive, and maybe it is, but predicting Jeff Robinson is a fool's errand. Enjoy the moments when he is on, playing with confidence and scoring points with rim-rattling dunks. During the other games, just hope that the depth is there to keep him on the bench.