One on one with Justin Robinson

The gift giving season began a bit earlier this year for one future Blue Devils as Justin Robinson, the son of NBA Hall of Famer, David Robinson, was accepted to Duke as a preferred walk-on. We sat down with the 6-foot-7 prospect to learn about how his recruiting process evolved and just what the plan is for him to play at Duke.

To start Justin, how are you feeling about your recent news with Duke?

Justin Robinson: It’s amazing, it’s a dream come true for me. My interest in Duke I would say goes back to when I was 6 when I started following Duke and I’ve been a big Duke fan ever since.

What led you to becoming interested in Duke at such an early age?

My dad went and spoke at a leadership conference at Duke that Coach K asked him to do. When he got back he told us that he absolutely loved it and basically he told me and my brothers that one of us was going to Duke, like he was so in love with the school. So I kinda fell in love with Duke from there. 

Was Duke always the hands down number one option for you as a student and player?

In my mind yes, but up until this year I didn’t even think it was like a realistic chance, like I always thought it was kinda a long-shot dream, they were always my dream school. Then as I got older and as I grew, it become more realistic.

How much communication—if any, did you have with the Duke staff during your process?

Yeah, the assistant coach, Coach Scheyer called me throughout the whole process and then Coach K called me a couple of times, like two times.

What were the conversations like with Coach K and Coach Scheyer?

At the very beginning with Coach Scheyer, it was more he was asking me about my game and my season and how things were going. Then he said there was a possibility that they would want me as a preferred walk-on, then as time went on, the possibility became a reality that they wanted me to be a preferred walk-on. I applied for early decision to Duke and then really our conversations from that point on were just checking in.

Then with Coach K, it was more like towards the end of the process, like right before I was accepted into Duke. Basically the first time he called me was before I got accepted and he basically laid out a plan for me. He said when you get here as a freshman, we’re going to redshirt you your first year, get you a lot stronger and let you get used to playing with the team and then any year after that, it’s basically up to me to try and earn a spot. That was really nice.

For some guys—they will go to a school as a walk-on with the possibility that they will be able to compete for the opportunity to potentially earn a scholarship. Has that been a topic of conversation with the Duke staff at all?

Yeah, that’s been the main reason why i’ve been confident with going to Duke so early as a preferred walk-on and not even really thinking about other schools  because I feel really confident that I have the ability to earn a scholarship there.

More curious than anything—before you decided to walk on at Duke, what schools were recruiting you and/or had offered a scholarship?

It was very light recruiting honestly. Notre Dame called and said I could be a preferred walk-on there. I had a couple calls from Columbia and then a few other schools I had interest from but no offers, just schools calling me here and there.

What did it mean to you to qualify as an early acceptance Duke University student?

It meant a lot to me because it was a huge relief for me knowing that all my academic work in high school had paid off. It’s just an amazing feeling. There’s a portal that Duke has where you check your application status, i think it was around December 11th in the evening and they posted that I was accepted on that. My parents and I were together when we saw it and it was amazing. We were celebrating for the whole night, it was awesome.

With your dad having the history that he has in liking Duke and Coach K-was there anything he said along the way to you reference Duke that has stood out?

Not too much, i don’t remember what specifically that he really liked about Duke and why he wanted me to go there, i’ve kinda seen how it is there because i’ve been to the basketball camp there for two summers. I’ve been around and seen how Coach K and all the coaches handle themselves and I can see where my dad was coming from when he told me that he wanted me to go there.

What did you notice about the coaches as you were competing in the camps?

Especially at the camps, they were very patient with the campers as they were teaching us, they were really taking the time to make sure we learned everything, so I really liked that they weren’t just telling us one thing, throwing us into a game and leaving us. I really enjoyed the passion and character that I saw from the coaches, they are really good men.

What were your thoughts on the Duke facilities during the camp and what kind of feedback did the Duke staff give you during the camps?

Well for the first question, it was all surreal for me because it’s literally the best facilities around, we got to see all the film room and all that stuff, Cameron was amazing, everything there was just really really good. 

The feedback, the coaches basically just told me little things like basketball IQ, like things they saw here and there and they really just improved my game mentally more than anything when I was there.

What are your thoughts going in regarding the reality of the level of work that you will be doing as a Duke player, especially as a walk-on day to day?

Really i just know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, non-stop. Really the main thing i know is perseverance going in there, especially with how tough it can get, i just gotta keep going.

How are you feeling knowing that you are following in your father’s footsteps in a sense that you will be a college basketball player as well?

In my opinion, all the pressure and expectations of having him be my dad is really fun to try and live up to those expectations under the pressure so it’s really going to be fun in following in his footsteps and seeing what i can make of my own story.

It sounds like you are a different kind of player than your dad obviously—what’s your style of play and approach on the court?

Both, i would say i’m a shooter, that’s probably the main thing that Duke wants from me. The main thing offensively is i can shoot. Then as i’ve grown i’ve became more of a post player, kinda like a stretch 4 who plays outside and inside. Defensively i’m a shot blocker for sure, I would say that defensively is more related to how I play like my dad.

Since you have watched Duke for so long—did you have any favorite teams or players?

Yeah, my favorite team was the 2010 team. That was the first like amazing Duke team that i can remember because I just heard about all the amazing 90s teams that they had. Really 2010 was my favorite and Jon Scheyer was definitely my favorite player.

What was it like for seeing your favorite player in Jon Scheyer actually start to talk to you about coming to Duke in his role as assistant coach?

I was speechless, it was surreal. When he first called me, I literally did not know what to say. I learned that Coach Scheyer and Coach K from talking with them that they genuinely care about their players. As soon as I was in at Duke, as soon as I knew that I was going to be a student there, they both just welcomed me. They sent my family a Happy Thanksgiving text, just little things like that where you can tell that they really do care about the players.

Is there a particular Duke degree program you know you are already interested in?

Ideally i want to do something with business, i’m just not sure what type of business. I’m not 100% for sure just yet.

I know you described your family’s reaction to being accepted to Duke—how did your friends at school react to the news?

They are going crazy, they are still going crazy over the news for sure. They love it. They all just, there was a buzz around school when it came out pretty much for like the whole week last week. There’s just been a buzz the whole week and people are coming up to me and giving me huge hugs and saying congratulations.

What’s your thoughts on getting to experience the Cameron Crazies in full affect once you are there?

Nothing but excited, i’m just so ready for that, it’s going to be awesome. I’ve actually never seen a game in person before, so the first game i’m going to see is going to be in February when i go up there to see a game. I don’t know what it’s actually like there for a game, I’m really excited to see that.

What game are you potentially trying to go for?

I think it’s the Notre Dame game on the 7th i believe. I think we may take a look around the campus too, we need to talk more with Coach Scheyer about that. I’m really looking forward to the game atmosphere more than anything. Having been to the camps there and having seen the facilities and knowing what it’s like when it’s all quiet and everything, i just want to see what Cameron Indoor is like during a game.

In closing Justin, I’m sure there’s a lot of Duke fans and Cameron Crazies who are learning about you for the first time—was there any message you wanted to share now that you know you are going to be there next year?

Really the main thing I want to say is after seeing on Twitter how many Duke fans are following me there and saying things to me on Twitter, i just want to say Thank You to all of you for such a warm and kind reception and I look forward to playing in front of them one day.

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