Farewell week is an annual feature in which we soliloquize the departing seniors. This year, we start with Jeff Robinson, king of the enigmas, before moving on to Travis Taylor and then Brad Redford. Stay tuned as we break down each of their careers.
Jeff Robinson. Has any name in Xavier history inspired such confusion? Robinson was at once one of the most talented and most enigmatic players that has ever suited up for the Musketeers. Capable of moments of supreme athleticism, Robinson was just as likely to be found making a play that seemed more in keeping with a confused fifth grader.
Robinson arrived on campus because Sean Miller left. In an alternate universe in which Miller never leaves (and the refs call Greg Oden for an intentional foul), Robinson would have plied his trade for a lesser team. FGCU now leaps out as a likely candidate for a player with limited discipline and unlimited athleticism, but at the time Robinson, once a target of schools like Butler, MSU, and Illinois, was destined to head to a lesser light.
Miller did leave though, and his departure took with it commitments and a wealth of talent, and left new coach Chris Mack scrambling for recruits. With that, JRob entered for the 2009 season and four years of headache, optimism, frustration, excitement, and more frustration were ushered in. For his freshman year, Robinson was barely more than a rumor. On a team loaded with talent and destined for one of the great games in NCAA tournament history (against Kansas St), Jeff barely had occasion to remove his warmups. 21 times during the season, Robinson didn't play a solitary minute. That didn't keep him from flashing his prodigious talent though. Jeff scored six points in seven minutes against Bowling Green, and another six in in seven minutes against Fordham. Other than that, Robinson wasn't much heard of.
For his sophomore season, Robinson decided to become the enigma that we all knew and loved. In the first three games of the year, Jeff averaged over ten points a game and shot over 60% from the floor. In true Jeff Robinson fashion, he scored 1.7 points per contest in the next 13 games before he dropped 12 on St. Bonaventure. Fans who took hope from that were disappointed as he promptly vanished again. In the next nine games Robinson stopped being even mildly useful and began surrendering large chunks of his playing time to the unheralded Andrew Taylor. Then, La Salle came to town.
If there is a moment that everyone will remember about Jeff Robinson, it's the La Salle game of his sophomore year. For whatever reason, Jeff brought all his abilities to bear in one tantalizing flash of excellence. 22 points, 8-10 from the floor, 6-7 from the line, and this thunderous dunk catapulted Jeff on to SportsCenter and sent hopes sky high once again. Finally, he had figured it out. Jeff scored only 22 the rest of the season.
Jeff's junior year it seemed that Chris Mack had tired of the act. Whether Jeff really was apathetic or not, he certainly looked it on the court, and Andre Walker and Dez Well were more than willing to take all the time that Jeff's inconsistency left on the floor. Jeff scored in double digits only four times (in a five game stretch, of course) and still stubbornly refused to use his 6'10" frame to grab the rebounds he seemed destined to get, averaging a pathetic 2.9 on the year. With his minutes slipping and his production somehow dropping, Robinson looked destined for a senior year spent mostly on the bench.
Then, the summer happened. Dez Wells left, Sim Bhullar landed in New Mexico, Travis Taylor had looked weak in his first year, and suddenly Coach Mack needed bigs. Into that gap stepped Jeff Robinson. Jeff averaged his most minutes, points, and rebounds in his senior year, but he was still disappointing. The forward scored 16 in each of the first two games, looked like he was starting his swoon, then scored in double digits again in games five and six. Then, he vanished. One point over the next two games, inconsistent effort (or just consistently no effort) led to Robinson being benched for a Christmas break game against Tennessee. In the five games following that, Robinson was back in double figures for three of them. In a loss to Charlotte though, Jeff somehow played 24 minutes without scoring at all. A burst against Dayton and ten against Fordham and Jeff's days in double digits were over.
It's hard to say what Jeff Robinson was. If Dee Davis seems determined to wring the very most out of the talent available to him, Robinson seemed exactly the same. He demonstrated on at least one occasion that he could utterly dominate a game, he demonstrated on many other occasions that he could disappear so completely that only his name on the boxscore belied any participation. One moment comes to mind when thinking of JRob. His sophomore season, while the team was suffering its only conference loss, Robinson caught the ball on the wing with acres of space in front of him and his team down only one. All Jeff had to do was take two of his massive strides and slam the ball down and maybe Xavier would finally seize momentum. Instead, he looked confused, dribbled hesitantly, and threw the ball away attempting to make a simple pass back to the top. The opportunity there for the taking, Jeff wasted it.
Career numbers: 4.5/3.3/.2