Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Talking past, present and future with Duncan Robinson
The voice at the other end of the phone chuckled at the question I asked.
I asked Duncan Robinson if if feels like yesterday that his family dropped him off at Williams, or does it seem like forever ago.
"That's a good way to put it," Robinson said.
The former Eph, who transferred to the University of Michigan, is wrapping up his college education and basketball career now. Robinson, who would have graduated last year from Williams, is basically done with his course work and will graduate in June.
"It does feel like a while" since he was at Williams, Robinson said. "I've had so many experiences. Michigan has been my home for the last three years. At the same time, I'm as close with some of those Williams guys as ever.
"It's funny. Looking back, time flies, but I feel very thankful for both of the experiences."
The Wolverines, along with the rest of the Big Ten, are bound for Madison Square Garden at the end of the month to play the conference tournament. Michigan will play on March 1, at a time to be determined.
Coach John Beilein, whose Wolverines are 21-7 and 10-5 in the Big Ten, said that Robinson — one of three senior captains — and the other captains need to take another step forward.
"It's their time right now," Beilein said in a Detroit Free Press article after Wednesday's win over Iowa. "I want them to shoot more, I want them to be more aggressive. It's their time. They've worked really hard and they've been leading. They've been great captains, but they've also got to be the ones that are a little bit more aggressive both offensively and defensively."
Robinson was in Beilein's starting lineup until a game at Michigan State on Jan. 13. Since then he has come off the bench and played a season-low eight minutes in a loss at Purdue on Jan. 25.
"[The season] has been a challenge. I've learned a ton, not just about myself as a basketball player, but also with handling adversity," he said. "Not to say I hadn't handled adversity before, but when you have a certain expectation of how things are going to go and it doesn't turn out that way.
"I've grown a lot through it, and I'm really thankful that I've had this experience because I've matured a lot and I've learned about what it means to be a leader."
The 6-foot-8 forward might have had two of his best games of the year in the last two contests. He scored 16 points and was 4 for 7 from 3-point range in a win over Wisconsin. Then he had 18 points and made 6 of 8 from outside the arc in a win at Iowa.
Maybe it's the turning of a corner for Robinson, and by extension, the Wolverines?
"I'd like to think so. We'll see," he said. "I'm just trying to control what I've always tried to control, stuff you can control which is energy and effort. Whether or not the shots fall, all you can do is prepare and put everything you have into it.
"If they don't go in, they don't go in."
Oh, and of the shots that don't go in, or do, I had to ask Robinson if he thought much about his first — and still only — NCAA championship game.
The NCAA Division III championship game was March 22, 2014, and with 19 seconds left, Mike Mayer had scored on the put-back of a Robinson miss, giving Williams a 73-72 lead over Wisconsin-Whitewater. But Quardell Young went coast-to-coast (all Tyus Edney or Danny Ainge, depending on your age) to score the game-winning basket and make a foul shot for a 75-73 final score.
Last year, when Williams went to the Final Four, I asked Mike Greenman and Dan Aronowitz, who were on that team, if they had watched the tape since. Aronowitz had but Greenman had not. Robinson was the third member of that Mike Maker-recruited freshman class, so I asked him.
"I've watched a handful of times, more than a handful actually," Robinson said. "[The first time] it was very hard to watch. As time progresses, I don't think it'll ever be easy to watch, seeing how close we were to it.
"I'm incredibly thankful for that year."
Robinson said he has been watching Williams play when he can, and has seen several games. He is, no doubt, rooting for the Ephs to win the NESCAC title and perhaps even a national title.
How about his future? Former Indiana coach, and ESPN analyst Tom Crean, said on a conference call that he thinks Duncan Robinson can play in the NBA.
"That's the ultimate goal," Robinson said. "I've put so much into basketball since I was young. It's literally been my entire life. I've learned so much from it and I want to continue to play as long as I can."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter or 413-496-6253.
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