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May 21, 2019

Knicks pick Mitchell Robinson gives very few answers as to why he never played in college

June 23, 2018

Any clarity why Mitchell Robinson left college last season will have to wait for another day, if it happens at all.

In his introductory press conference Friday – after being selected 36th overall by the Knicks – Robinson seemed nervous and purposefully short with his answers. Asked about his journey to the NBA – specifically his decision to leave Western Kentucky twice without playing a game – Robinson said, “The decision was made because I just wanted to focus on basketball to get to the means to where I want to be in my career.”

The inference was that school would be too much of a distraction.

Asked about the state of his game after a year off and the importance of Summer League, Robinson responded, ““My game has improved. I’m just ready to show that on the court.”

It was a different mood than the typical introductory press conference, but Robinson also had the luxury of GM Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills seated adjacent to fill in the blanks.

“We know we have a situation that can help embrace him, find ways for him to grow off the court and on the court,” Mills said. “We know we have a group of coaches and an environment that will help him grow.

Mitchell Robinson, (l.) shows off new Knicks uniform with Kevin Knox on Friday, doesn’t elaborate as to why he didn’t play college basketball. (Kevin Hagen / AP)

A source said Robinson was much more outgoing during the predraft interview process and perhaps his abruptness Friday was simply a product of nerves. After all, the 20-year-old grew up in a small town in Louisiana and had never been under the spotlight of such a press conference.

Here’s the story of what happened to Robinson last year, as gathered by various reports:

  • He was a top recruit of the 2017 High School class and enrolled at Western Kentucky.
  • Prior to the season, he reportedly left campus and, as a result, was suspended for violating team rules.
  • He visited LSU and the University of New Orleans in hopes of transferring.
  • He returned to Western Kentucky but left again while announcing that he’d forgo college.
  • He was ineligible to play in the G League because he had taken summer classes at Western Kentucky, so Robinson didn’t play at all last season.
  • He was chosen 36th overall by the Knicks – which was the pick acquired in the deal for Carmelo Anthony.

If there are questions about Mitchell’s maturity or drive, they should answered pretty quickly with the Knicks. Coach David Fizdale is known to run a trying training camp. Regardless, there’s a reason the Knicks are taking a shot at a 7-footer who hasn’t played a meaningful game in a year (by choice).

“We watched him in all of the high school events a year ago and he was a standout,” Perry said. “The most athletic big really in the class, we felt. The fact he was still able to be there at 36 we’re excited about. We’re excited about his upside potential. Again, another long athletic player.

“We talked about our need as a basketball team to get much more athletic because we’re going to want to play with a lot more pace and we want to be aggressive defensively and these guys have the physical attributes to do that.”

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