Report: Mitchell Robinson leaning toward skipping 2017-18 season altogether
What once looked like a promising option for a Kansas basketball program thin on big men now looks much less likely.
Jon Rothstein, of FanRag Sports, reported earlier this week that “multiple sources” had told him that 7-foot center Mitchell Robinson — the McDonald’s All-American who was released from his commitment to Western Kentucky and visited LSU, Kansas and New Orleans during recent weeks — was considering skipping the 2017-18 season altogether in order to prepare for the 2018 NBA Draft.
No Kansas. No New Orleans. No return to Western Kentucky. No basketball.
Sure, Robinson, if he does go this route, will spend the next 10 months working out and preparing for the draft, but is that really his best path to NBA success?
I get that being ineligible due to transfer rules, and therefore being unable to play in a game for whichever school he chose, would keep him from playing meaningful basketball. But isn’t the idea of learning from Bill Self or any other legitimate college basketball coach worth something to a young man in Robinson’s position? Malik Newman sure seemed to think so.
That’s not to say that Newman would have been a likely lottery pick had he sat out last year and then jumped into the 2017 NBA Draft before ever playing a minute at KU. He’s not 7 feet tall or that might have been the case. Either way, Newman still would have been drafted. But instead, he chose to come to Kansas to play for Kansas and now his name is all over the place, from coast to coast, as a part of potentially one of the best college backcourts in America.
It sure seems, at least to me, that going anywhere — Kansas, UNO, back to WKU, wherever — and getting the kind of structure one gets from regular practices, pick-up games, travel, film study and help in the weight room and with nutrition, would be a better move for Robinson than sitting out altogether.
Doing the opposite would not only keep Robinson from getting those benefits, but also would be another blow to the current NBA age limit rule, which states that players are not eligible to join the league until they turn 19.
While that rule gained support early on because it helped prevent players who were not ready for pro ball from jumping to the NBA right out of high school, situations like Robinson’s likely were not what they had in mind.
And I can’t imagine current NBA coaches or general managers like it much either.
Lottery picks are worth their weight in gold in the NBA, and, although Robinson would be sitting out hoping to preserve his status as a potential lottery selection — which he was on Jonathan Givony's most recent 2018 NBA mock draft — it’s hard to envision an NBA franchise picking a guy that high who had not played competitive basketball in more than a year.
Forget about the one-and-done trend’s impact on the college game for a second and think about it from the NBA perspective. Having a potential franchise player playing in college — or even overseas — for a full year before you draft him has to be much more appealing than picking a young man who has just been in the gym working out.
That’s not to say Robinson could not get better or position himself to be an attractive option for NBA franchises by getting after it for the next 10 months. In fact, Rothstein’s report mentions that Robinson’s camp is hoping he follows the path taken by Sudanese big man Thon Maker, who became the No. 10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft after doing a year of post-graduate prep school in 2015 while waiting to fulfill the NBA’s age requirement.
But these two situations are not exactly the same and I can’t imagine this is the direction any of the other parties involved — college basketball, the NBA or NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who recently said the age 19 rule was “not working” — want to see the game go.
Time will tell what happens to Robinson. But, as of today, it’s looking less and less likely that college basketball will be a part of his story.