Robinson ready to make an impact

Billy Donovan usually waits to see a few weeks of practice before he knows what type of impact a freshman will be able to make on his team, but that isn’t necessary with Devin Robinson.

The freshman forward will have to make an impact this season. It was evident from his early moments on campus in individual workouts, and the first week of practice has done nothing to make Billy Donovan expect anything else.

The 6-8, 178-pounder will provide outside shooting and scoring ability that the Gators need this year.

“I think Devin has really good potential,” Donovan said. “I think he's going to be a really good player. He gives us perimeter shooting. Even though he's (6-8), he doesn't give us good physicality. He's wiry, athletic. He's very gifted offensively.”

The Gators still have weeks before the season opener against William & Mary on November 14 to decide which position Robinson will play. There’s a chance he could even be the in the starting lineup to begin his college career. Expectations were high before the positive reviews out of Florida’s practices started to come out, but the freshman just wants to help his team win.

“I’m just going to try to come in and produce,” Devin Robinson said. “Coach recruited me for a reason, so I’m just going to try my hardest and try to win some games.”

Robinson, the No. 16 overall player in the 2014 class, said he picked Florida over Indiana, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Texas. Donovan was the reason. Robinson felt wanted in Gainesville by how hard the Florida coach recruited him. They talked about style of play, and the Gators’ up-and-down style fit perfectly into what Robinson wanted in college.

Donovan saw how well Robinson could shoot while watching him play in high school and told him he needed to shoot the ball confidently when he got the Gainesville as a freshman.

“Billy played the biggest part,” Robinson said. “He talked to me every day on the phone. He just told me the truth from the beginning. He didn’t lie and tell me, “oh, you’re going to play a lot.” He just promised me I’d get better if I work hard. That’s the way I like it.

“He just told me to come in and work hard, and the results will show themselves. I took that in. That’s what made me come here. I just loved how his players improved. He’s big on player development. He told me I would get better here, so I just chose to come here.”

The player connection also helped Robinson decide to play at Florida. When he visited Florida, he immediately connected with fellow Virginia native Dorian Finney-Smith. Their hometowns are just over an hour apart and both knew who the other was from their reputations on the court before they met on Robinson’s visit to Gainesville last year.

Since Robinson came to campus in the summer, their relationship has grown. Finney-Smith has proven to be a mentor for the freshman, helping him get accustomed to college life.

“Dorian just put his arm around me,” Robinson said. “I just follow him and look up to him a lot. When I came on my visit, we instantly clicked.”

Finney-Smith called the freshman his “little brother.” He took Robinson under his wing to help him be comfortable in Gainesville, especially since they’re so far away from their homes in Virginia. It’s easy for freshmen to get homesick and struggle without that kind of support, and Finney-Smith said the connection was even easier since they play the same position at times.

“He can shoot it,” Finney-Smith said. “He’s long, too. Devin is freakishly long. Sometimes you forget how long he is by the way he carries himself, but he’s like 6-9 with arms that touch his knees. It’s crazy.”

Robinson’s frame is the reason many of his teammates rave about his scoring ability, but the freshman still has room to add weight. He said he didn’t work out much in high school, giving him a chance to add weight at Florida.

He started practice at 178 pounds but would like to get up to 200. It’s hard to tell, but Robinson said he has gotten stronger since getting to Gainesville.

“We’re totally different from last year,” Robinson said. “Last year’s team had been together longer. This team is pretty new. It’s going to be a different team.”

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