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Summer Camp: Jeff Robinson

Summer is filled with many things that aren't basketball. For the writers of the Xavier Examiner, that included a trip to Middle Bass Island last week. For you it might mean Kings Island, an increase in work, a marked decrease in work, something in between, or simply watching our Indians sweep your Reds. What it means for all of us is that there is no Xavier game to settle in and watch for the evening. But, as the heat begins its cruel tyranny over the daylight hours, our basketballing brethren are hitting the gym in an attempt to hone their skills.

More of this, Jeff

22, 15, 12, 11, 8, 7, 6, 4. Those are Jeff Robinson's top eight scoring games, and therein lies the trouble with Jeff Robinson. The name itself immediately conjures up thoughts of one moment of brilliance at home against La Salle, when Kenny Frease picked Robinson out at the top of the key for the sophomore to take his steps and throw the ball down with a nearly unparalleled ferocity. Unfortunately, that's about it. Robinson scored 15 against what turned out to be a bad Iowa squad early in the year, but other than that, he was an enigma.

There is no question that Jeff Robinson is a talented individual. His first half against La Salle was a tour de force of hustle plays, defensive acumen, and offensive prowess. Two games later, Jeff scored two points in only 17 minutes against Charlotte in a game the Musketeers won handily. 

In 2008 ESPN scouted Jeff and came up with this, "He has great size and is a very good athlete but gets very little done on the floor. He plays very unaggressive and unsure of himself most of the time. When he is motivated he can finish above the rim in transition and score on drop off passes created by guard penetration and rebound in his area. For Robinson to have success at Purdue [or not] he make play with more passion and energy and continue to develop his skills and add strength." While the grammar and spelling are a bit suspect, the point hasn't changed in three years. Robinson continues to flash physical skills that very few players can offer, and continues to flash them so rarely that one has to wonder what is happening in his head.

Jeff isn't a high school senior anymore now, and there is no room in Xavier's suddenly deep frontcourt for a player who is tentative and lacking confidence. Travis Taylor, Kenny Frease, Dez Wells, Jalen Reynolds, and any incoming transfers will be occupying minutes that Robinson wants this year. By next year Isaiah Philmore, a player not at all lacking in confidence, will have also joined the ranks. All this leaves Robinson nothing more than a pick-up game All-American unless he makes two major adjustments over the summer.

The look of a man in between ideas
First, Robinson has to get out of his head and into the game. In the game at Charlotte this year, Robinson was at his hesitant worst. Needing a bucket to cap a comeback of sorts early in the game, Xavier rotated to Jeff wide open on the right wing. Robinson had the play in front of him with plenty of time to shoot or drive. Instead, he hesitated, shuffled to his right, and made an awkward and weak pass back toward the top of the key. With his physical gifts such as they are, Robinson needs to get much more out of that play. An assist to turnover ratio of .3 though, only highlights the hesitancy. If he improves his confidence this summer by allowing his natural reactions to the game to come to the fore, he can still be a force. La Salle knows that.

Secondly, Jeff needs to shoot the ball this summer, and he needs to shoot it a lot. Tu Holloway transformed his game by improving his jumper, and the Musketeers lanky swingman could use to do the same. Robinson isn't afraid to hoist a three (about a half of an attempt per game) but his shooting percentage of 18.8 doesn't inspire confidence. Whether that is accurate or skewed by sample size is hard to tell. What isn't hard to tell is that an improved jumper would open more lanes for the Indiana native to put the ball on the floor. Hesitancy and lack of confidence often stem from an uncertain result. Robinson working on his shot enough to trust it could go a long way toward alleviating those ills.

It would be hoped that the boost of offensive confidence would also carry over to Robinson's work on the boards. Despite standing 6-9, Jeff managed only 3.1 rebounds per game. Those came in only 17 minutes, so there is clearly potential, but it would behoove Jeff to attack the glass like he did against Richmond (seven rebounds) rather than timidly hanging back like he did against UC and Georgia (zero in each game).

You'll know it's working when: Robinson takes ten shots in a game. Jeff managed ten only once this year, and yes, it was against the Explorers of La Salle. If Robinson feels comfortable enough to shoot regularly, you can bet he will put numbers.

You should worry if you see: Robinson consistently and unerringly defer to everyone else on the floor. Offenses are designed with five people for a reason. Too many times this year Robinson's timidity led him to trying to make an ill-advised bailout pass. If that happens again, Jeff Robinson will get to know Griffin McKenzie very well.

Summer Camp archive:

Kenny Frease
Mark Lyons
Tu Holloway