The Wolverine

February 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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40 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2017 Duncan Robinson has been through a lot of changes over the course of his basketball career. The redshirt junior for- ward finds himself in the swirl of another, and he's trying to squeeze everything out of it he can. Robinson made the monumental leap from Division III Williams College his freshman season to the bright lights of Crisler Center and the Big Ten in 2014-15. After sitting out the NCAA-mandated year for transfers, he came off the bench the first nine games last season, then set- tled into a starting role for 27 more. Following a blistering non- conference shooting spree in which he connected on more than 60 percent of his three-pointers for a stretch, Robinson wound up averag- ing 11.2 points on the sea- son. He finished with a still- strong 45 percent on threes, along with 3.5 rebounds per game. The emergence of red- shir t sophomore for ward D.J. Wilson, though, forced a change this year. Robinson star ted three games, but has given way to Wilson and now comes off the bench looking to contribute. Through Michigan's first 18 games, Robinson main- tained averages of 8.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, after seeing his minutes drop from 28.9 last year to 19.7 this season. Despite coming off the bench, his three- point shooting remains effective, at 39.7 percent. "It's definitely a little bit different," Robinson said. "It's a unique challenge, which I'm very open to embracing. I try to look at some of the advantages it presents. If you come off the bench, you can kind of get a feel for the game a little bit, watch what's happening. "You pick some areas that your team might need, so that when you come in, you can supply whatever it is — energy, making shots. I try to not let it affect my approach too much." Head coach John Beilein felt he needed to get more length, rebounding, defensive presence, etc., into the Michigan lineup. Wilson certainly hasn't disappointed in most of those areas, averaging 10.8 points and leading the team with an average of 6.4 rebounds per game, along with a team-best 24 blocked shots. All of that leaves Beilein with some tough decisions to make regarding Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zak Irvin. "With D.J.'s emergence, where does he play?" Beilein pon- dered. "Should he be sharing more time with Muhammad or with Zak? Who are you going to take off the floor? That's the conundrum we're in right now." The junior Abdur-Rahkman gives Michigan a more athletic defensive presence at shooting guard, while Irvin leads the team in scoring as a senior small forward. That means Robin- son simply has to stay ready as best he can. He's cut down a bit on his pregame ritual, which used to involve him making as many as 100 shots before Michigan's regular warm-up. He still tries to focus on shots he might draw from the new positions he's playing. He actually came off the bench before, as a sopho- more and junior at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. It's a different feel, though, leaping into ac- tion in a Big Ten contest fol- lowing a cool-down period from warm-ups. Robinson tries not to over- focus on the results of his first shot, he stressed. "Any basketball player has to have a short-term mem- ory with that kind of stuff," Robinson said. "I'd be lying if I said it doesn't impact you at all. The biggest thing with me isn't always whether or not it goes in, but just how it feels coming off the hand. "A lot of times I'll miss a shot, but it feels just as good as if I'd made it. It's the rhythm I have on the shot." Robinson noted there wasn't any specific conversation with Beilein regarding the change of status. He knows the head coach's expectation — be ready, be aggressive and stay positive. "It's staying mentally engaged and focused, and whenever my number is called, being ready to come in and help out in any way that I can," Robinson said. "If he thinks that's best coming off the bench, I'm happy to fill that role." Robinson says the Wolverines are all embracing and ad- justing to the defensive changes enacted by new assistant coach Billy Donlon. Robinson himself just has an extra layer of adjustment on top of schematic alterations. "It's a unique challenge," he said. "Last year, I was kind of positioned on that right side. D.J. has grown so much as a player and is having such a great year that I'm trying to fit on the court any way I can to help us win. "Wherever that is and whatever the team needs me to do — that's the mentality I've adopted. I'm going to stick with that and maintain that." — John Borton Duncan Robinson Adjusting To New Role Robinson came off the bench in all but three of the first 18 games this season, and was averaging 8.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 19.7 min- utes per game. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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