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The Stanford Robinson conundrum


Sophomore Stanford Robinson watches the dunk contest from the sidelines on Oct. 25 during IU's Hoosier Hysteria at Assembly Hall. File photo and File photo Buy Photos

Last season, then-freshman guard Stanford Robinson started nine out of the 32 games IU played.

He played an average of 17 minutes per game. He came on toward the end of the season after he got more experience because IU needed some offense. Last year IU had a very hard time scoring the ball.

If you read my columns last year, it’s no secret I love how Robinson plays. He’s quick and shifty and ?cunning.

He’s excellent at getting to the basket. When he gets to the basket, he knows how to finish. He’s left-handed and can use his right hand very well, so defenders can’t shade toward one side.

He’s got a little bit of a euro-step, which is just awesome to have from an 19-year-old basketball ?player.

On defense, he’s great at staying in front of people. He’s got long arms and quick feet, a great combination for a defender.

The one thing he struggled with — and it’s a pretty big thing — was his ?shooting.

He was a horrible outside shooter. His jump shot had an ugly form, and he was only 3-for-16 from behind the arc. That’s 19 percent. That’s miserable.

Also, because he is so good at getting to the basket, he draws fouls at a good rate. Last season, he drew 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes, which is a high figure for a guard.

The only problem is he doesn’t convert when he’s at the line. Last season he was just 54-for-90 from the line. That’s 60 percent. For a guard, that’s miserable.

But with all that said about Robinson, when he comes back from his four-game drug suspension at 8 p.m. tonight against SMU, what will his role be?

Is he a starter?

Or is he an instant-offense guy/perimeter lockdown defender off the bench?

Freshman guard Rob Johnson’s play has been stellar this season. His game is very similar to Robinson’s. He’s a much better shooter than Robinson, but I think Robinson is better at attacking the basket.

Part of the backcourt is set. The two concrete starters at guard are going to be junior Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and freshman James Blackmon Jr. That much we know.

But the issue of the third guard slot — because IU doesn’t have a traditional “three” wing-type player — is up for debate. It’ll be between Robinson and ?Johnson.

I don’t know who will end up winning that battle. I would like to see the new and improved Robinson jump shot. He uses his right hand now, as opposed to his left hand last year. Weird, I know. But let’s see if it works.

One important thing to remember is it doesn’t really matter who starts the game. It matters who finishes the game. Who will be the crunch-time five IU goes with in the final five minutes of a close game?

Coming into the season, it was clear to me that Robinson would be part of that five.

But if you can get 90 percent of Robinson’s basket attacking and defense with Johnson, you may have to take that because right now, Johnson’s shooting is light years ahead of ?Robinson’s.

This year’s team will be predicated on outside shooting. If Robinson can shoot 33 or 35 percent from behind the arc, I think he’s got the job as the third guard.

But if he can’t shoot from outside at a consistent rate, Robinson will be on the bench as he watches Johnson play with Blackmon and Ferrell in crunch time in IU’s backcourt.

The good thing is tonight we finally get to see with our own eyes who that third guard should be.

Prediction: IU 76, SMU 69.

Evan Hoopfer is 2-0 in predictions this year.

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