When reviewing the roster of the Jordan Brand Classic, and looking at the colleges those players are headed to, it is odd to see a Conference USA team alongside Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.
Five-star 2017 center Mitchell Robinson wanted to be a trailblazer. He spurned many major offers when he decided to sign with budding Conference USA power Western Kentucky last fall.
Robinson is just not your average high school recruit.
The 7-foot, 200-pound center from Chalmette, Louisiana (Chalmette High School), is ranked as the No. 8 overall player in the 2017 class according to 247 Sports. He is also regarded as the best center in the country.
Suffice to say, this was a huge—and perhaps program-changing—signing that can possibly elevate the Hilltoppers to heights unseen.
Western Kentucky commit Mitchell Robinson with the dunk of the night!pic.twitter.com/XY66etdRTK
— Shoot The Jay (@SportsManCave) April 15, 2017
Committing to Rick Stansbury’s Hilltoppers did not come out of nowhere, though. Robinson’s godfather Shammond Williams, an ex-North Carolina Tar Heel great, is a member of Stansbury’s staff.
Between the family connection and the ability to be a unique trailblazer, Robinson is excited at the challenges ahead of him.
“That was one of the biggest (selling) points,” Robinson said after the game about trying to resurrect the Western Kentucky program. “Also the coach (Stansbury). Me and coach are really tight. My Godparents are also there. That pushed the issue for me to go there.”
Robinson may very well be just a one-and-done player, as many early projections have him as lottery pick next year. Still, the arrival of Robinson, even only for one season, will make Stansbury’s program a viable mid-major stop.
Stansbury has also convinced the likes of class of 2017 four-star wing Josh Anderson to hop on board, as well as persuade major transfers like Lamonte Bearden (Buffalo) and Moustapha Diagne (Syracuse) to call Bowling Green home for the foreseeable future. Plus, Stansbury is welcoming one of the best Junior College players in the country next season in Jordan Brangers.
The Hilltoppers are clearly building something special and the signing of Robinson was the ultimate of all needle-pushing moves. There is every reason to believe that Western Kentucky will be the new tour de force of Conference USA and thus immediately contend for an NCAA Tournament bid next season.
Robinson is eager to be a part of that process.
“Next year is just the beginning,” Robinson said. “I’m going to work really hard and hopefully we make the NCAA Tournament.”
There should be no doubting the impact Robinson can make. He could have dominated even he played in the ACC, SEC, or Big 12. So just imagine him patrolling the paint in Conference USA.
Robinson is a very active center with great footwork in the post. He establishes great position in the paint and is always in the right position, either finishing at the rim or collecting rebounds. And with his wingspan, he will be an absolute menace on defense.
Prior to beginning his college journey, Robinson took pleasure in pleasing his fans with a fantastic performance at the Jordan Brand Classic. He scored 15 points on a perfect 7-7 shooting from the field—most of which were of the rim-rattling dunk variety—as well as chip in with three rebounds.
After the game, he spoke about the environment of playing in another major showcase, as a few weeks prior he also played in the McDonald’s All-American game.
“It felt great,” Robinson said. “It felt good to come out here and compete against all the top players in the nation. I just wanted to show everybody what I could do.”
With the opportunity to open up a lot of eyes in his freshman season and make Western Kentucky a major player on the mid-major scene, Robinson is about to show a lot of people exactly what he could do.