Glenn Robinson III has scrapped his way to a NBA career and the journeyman is having a breakout season.
Robinson feels he’s been underrated since his time at Lake Central, though he was a consensus top-20 player nationally, and into the early stages of his NBA career, even as the son of former No. 1 pick Glenn Robinson Jr. But in his sixth season, the one-time second-round pick is leaning on lessons gleaned from growing up in the Region.
“I always tell kids every time you go to that different stage, like from high school to college, you have to climb that ladder back up again. From college to NBA, you have to climb that ladder back up again,” he said. “I felt like now, being Year 6 for me, I’m finally getting able to climb and stride up that ladder.”
Robinson, 26, signed a one-year contract with the Golden State Warriors last season and started 48 games before a mid-season trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, with whom he’s competing for a NBA championship with in the Orlando bubble.
Last summer, he entered free agency and only had interest from the Warriors and Houston Rockets, who have two of the league’s most dynamic offenses. Ultimately, he felt that Golden State’s system fit his playing style better, and the pull of playing alongside Stephen Curry had to be enticing.
Playing time was available with Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals. That allowed Robinson to flourish, even after Curry broke the second metacarpal in his left hand four games into the season.
“I tell all the young guys that this league is all about an opportunity. I get 25 to 30 minutes per game in Golden State and you’re able to see what I can do,” he said. “Everybody is in the league for a reason and it’s all about opportunity. You just have to wait your turn and be ready no matter what. It only takes one game for these teams to see you.”
Robinson’s “breakthrough” was a gamble, and afforded him an opportunity to be a full-time starter and top scoring option for the first time. He started 48 games, averaging 12.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 48.1% from the field and 40% on 3s.
“I felt like Golden State was a system that fit my game a little bit more. I chose that and bet on myself,” he said. “I’ve had to do that a couple times in my career and I feel like this time it really paid off.”
The Gary native is in his second stint with the 76ers and is on his fifth team in six seasons. His persistence to stay in the league comes from lessons learned in Northwest Indiana.
“It was so fun just to really be able to show and display my game,” he said. “I think the thing that has stuck with me since my time at Lake Central High School back in St. John, Indiana, is hard work will always pay off.“
Robinson said he’d get 1,000 shots up before school every day. He learned to always have a set of weights at home, which paid off during quarantine after the NBA shut down in March so he could complete the workouts trainer Joey Burton sent him, and how to cook nutritious meals with a variety of ingredients.
It paid off when he stepped into the national spotlight and won the 2017 NBA dunk contest in New Orleans as a member of the Pacers. And it's given him an edge on guys he entered the league with.
"My dad really taught me what to put in my body and add longevity to my career, which I’m very happy about,” Robinson said. “... That’s always allowed me to pass guys and become a better player and stick in the league for six years because of that dedication and those differences that other guys might not know how.”
Despite being a five-star recruit at LC, Robinson wasn’t offered a scholarship by Purdue, his dad’s alma mater, or Indiana. Instead he went to Michigan with a chip on his shoulder, and went to the Final Four as a freshman.
In the end, it’s helped his NBA journey as stars like Curry, Draymond Green and new Philadelphia teammates Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have confidence in Robinson as a player.
“They could see the things I was taught at Michigan. They could see the fundamentals I had as a player. Being able to shoot, play defense and run the floor is all a superstar needs you to do,” Robinson said. “So, if I’m able to do that, and I’m smart from the things (John) Beilein taught me and the Michigan schemes we used to do — the cutting, Princeton offense — that’s where you’re able to excel.”
Returning to the 76ers brought some familiarity for Robinson, who spent part of his rookie season with them after he was cut by Minnesota. Embiid was rehabbing from an injury and the two played 3-on-3 together in practice, allowing a relationship to develop.
He played against Simmons, and was excited to join him. They worked on their transition game and discussed where they like passes, running lanes and more upon Robinson’s arrival.
“I think the thing I’m excited about is I get to work with an All-Star level of player and I get to learn from him every day. I’m constantly learning from Ben and I’m constantly learning from Joel Embiid, and the rest of my teammates,” Robinson said. “I think that’s what I enjoy most is every team I go on, the superstars seem to gravitate to me because they know I know how to play.”
The NBA Playoffs tip off Monday and the 76ers will try to make a run at the NBA Finals. However, Simmons suffered a knee injury and is out for the season, and Embiid is expected to be healthy following a left ankle injury. Both got hurt during the seeding games.
Robinson is looking forward to free agency after the playoffs, where he is confident he’ll have more interest from teams. But he also keeps things in perspective, which is especially important during the COVID-19 era.
For those that had senior years cut short, those entering their senior years or anyone who is struggling, Robinson offers advice that has kept his motor going:
“You’re not guaranteed another day. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so why not put in your best effort and your best foot forward today?”
Gallery: NBA Slam Dunk champion Glenn Robinson III through the years
Aaron Ferguson can be reached at 219-853-2519 or email@example.com. The opinions are the writer's.