When a senior gets demoted from the starting lineup back onto the bench and a freshman takes his spot, things can get a little bit uncomfortable and awkward.
For Duncan Robinson, he feels lucky to have a coach like John Beilein because he can trust him for every move he makes.
“It was a conversation between (Beilein) and myself and he’s always got a plan to steer this team in the right direction,” Robinson said. “I looked at it as a leadership opportunity and I’ve just embraced the role I was given. I just want to do whatever I can to help this team.”
Robinson was a starter for the first 18 games of the season but was told before the Michigan State game he was going to lose the job to freshman forward Isaiah Livers.
Quite frankly, it was forced on Beilein to make a switch with the emergence of Livers. His defensive ability and his size have fit very well into the other four players on the starting five, while occasionally providing big shots.
Robinson was just having trouble finding the bottom of the net. Before yesterdays game against Rutgers, the transfer from Williams College had seven 3-pointers made over seven games.
Against the Scarlet Knights, he hit four triples that were timely and key to keeping Michigan afloat when its offense was struggling.
Robinson also looks at his recent role as a way to show the younger players on the team accepting any role you are given seriously is important to success.
“I hope any guy not starting can look at today and see that coming in and providing a spark can keep you out there for 25-30 minutes,” Robinson said. “I try to use the opportunity as a leadership moment and fully embrace it into a team effort.”
While this may not be something Robinson expected coming into the season as a starter, he has come off the bench to provide that “spark” for the Wolverines a majority of the time that he’s played here.
In his first season playing with U-M back in 2014-15, Robinson’s role was switched from on the bench to starter due to injuries, starting 27-of-36 games. However, last year as a redshirt junior he only started 3-of-38 contests.
Robinson said that he’s been in this situation before and that helps him pick out what he sees from the opponent early in the game.
“It’s just the simple stuff like the flow of the game and how it’s going on both ends,” Robinson said. “What they are trying to do early, maybe attack inside or dribble-drive type of stuff. Offensively, I look for where there might be opportunities and lock in on that stuff so I can be aggressive when I come in.”
Fellow teammate and roommate to Robinson, Moritz Wagner, said “he isn’t surprised” by how Robinson is responding to the new role he has with the team.
“What we saw today is the dude I know,” Wagner said. “He’s a player I’ve been with the past three years and I’m not surprised because this is what he does. He was just being himself and I’m proud of him for bouncing back.”
Beilein said Robinson needs to “hunt shots” more like he did against the Scarlet Knights and not look for permission to shoot the ball.
“We are going to take his shots good or bad because he can shoot it in,” Beilein said. “What we see in practice from his drills is phenomenal but when we go into practice sessions he’s asking for permission. He doesn’t need to because I trust him.
“I think he did a better job today, I sent him a quick text before the game saying you are going to be terrific today and he was because he just came out shooting.”
Wagner said he needs to “hunt” his shots more because he is a shooter and that is what good shooters do — take a lot of shots.
“If you’re very good at making shots, you better be taking them,” Wagner said. “I always tell him to hunt shots even if he goes 0-for-9 because the more he misses, the higher of a percentage will go in next time.”
For Robinson right now, who’s averaging nine points per game, he just wants to take it day-by-day and come back ready to work on Tuesday, no matter what is asked of him.
“It has been a heck of a stretch and it’ll be nice to get a day off,” Robinson said. “We can get away from basketball for a little bit, do some recovery and come back on Tuesday ready to practice. We are excited for the opportunity with Purdue.”
So far this season, Robinson is taking any “opportunity” he’s had to get better, because he knows his days are limited wearing the U-M uniform.
“These last 20 or so days have been a whirlwind,” Robinson said. “Not fun for a guy who’s in his senior year and the days are just flying off the calendar. It’s fun that we’ve had some success, but time is ticking on my career here and I’m just trying to make the most of it everyday.”