INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- It was Thursday, April 18, 2013 when two best friends, even roommates, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, announced they had a plan in place -- both would return to Michigan for their sophomore campaigns, looking to make another run at a national championship.
The deal came with stipulations though.
McGary, coming off a six game stretch in the NCAA tournament that launched him into Pre-Season First Team All-America honors, was looking to be more of a centerpiece, a versatile big man that much like in Michigan’s win over Syracuse in the Final Four, could direct traffic and make quality decisions in John Beilein’s offense out of the high post, most likely alongside another big man.
For Robinson III, the residual was perfect. Playing out of position as an undersized four man his entire freshman season, the Indiana native was worn down. Battling the likes of 6-foot-8, 240-pound 21 year olds night in and night out, Robinson III was hoping to get away from the hoop a little more on both ends of the floor, eyeing and ready to assume the role as a three in the Wolverines’ offense.
Sounds simple, right?
Not so much. A back injury to McGary, eventually leading to surgery that has kept him out of the Michigan lineup since their loss at home to No. 1 ranked Arizona, put a bit of a hitch in the off-season agreement.
With McGary out and no one with his size and skill set on the bench to play alongside Jordan Morgan or Jon Horford at the four, Robinson III was forced back to his old position, something that at the time was very difficult to accept.
“At the beginning of the season, things weren’t going right,” Robinson III said Saturday. “I was going to play the three, coach decided he wanted me back at the four and Mitch got hurt; all kinds of things so I was kind of upset a little bit about that. I was kind of questioning my decision to come back.
“But, to be able to make another tournament run is great and get to play in front of all those fans and for this school one more time and just being around my teammates.
“I’m never going to have a team, you know once you leave college you’re never going to be a part of a real team anymore, guys are playing for contracts, their families and everything.
“We’re actually like one team who doesn’t care and that’s one thing that’s great about us we don’t care who scores, don’t care who gets the credit, we’re just out there to play basketball for each other.”
Mentally, this was a lot to deal with for Robinson III, who put off the possibility of being a first round draft pick in the NBA to come back hoping to play more of his natural position for an entire season.
The lingering frustration took a while to mend before Robinson III was fully able to move past it on his way to helping Michigan win their first outright Big Ten championship since 1986, now just one win away from their second straight Final Four appearance.
“I think it was probably not until a fourth (of the way) through the season,” Robinson III. “I just kind of let it go and I decided to play basketball and I had a great run actually for quite a few games there.
“I was just like, there’s nothing I can do about Mitch getting hurt or playing the three and now switching up playing the four and the three when Nik needs a timeout. I thought I was doing a good job of switching up and taking my skills as a three and using it against these slower four men like yesterday’s game, getting to the rack and using my ability to score the ball.”
Robinson III scored 13-points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field in 39 minutes of action in Michigan’S Friday night win over Tennessee, taking advantage of his mismatch with Volunteers’ forward Jeronne Maymon, who battled foul trouble and the inability to defend against No. 1’s athleticism.
Maymon finished his day with just two points and four rebounds in 17 minutes against the Wolverines.
Teammate Nik Stauskas recalls a down Robinson III early in the season, now emerging as an unselfish catalyst in Michigan’s postseason success.
“You could see the frustration and that’s why Glenn’s a captain of this team,” Stauskas said. “He’s the ultimate team player cause he’s given up a lot this year to help the team be successful.
“I think it was about midway through the season where he just realized that being frustrated and being upset with the role he was playing, it wasn’t going to help him.
“He just decided to make the best of every opportunity and I think, especially these last couple weeks in the Big Ten tournament and throughout the NCAA tournament, he’s been doing a great job of playing his role to perfection and making the most of every opportunity.”
One of just four players named captain as a sophomore in Michigan basketball program history, Robinson III was and is an easy choice as one of the Wolverines captains, something the coaching staff and team were on the same page about before the season even started.
“He's one of the most unselfish players we've ever been around, that he accepts this role and he's so talented, yet he's all about the team all the time,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “And we did a little bit of a straw vote with the team. They were not going to pick the captain this year. We thought they were very, very young. But we were going to pick the captain.
“But we said, let's just see what they're feeling. And they were right on. Jon, Jordan and Glenn was the unanimous pick of all the players as well as the coaches. It was striking how similar we were all thinking.
“He's not a loud guy in any way, but his example when he makes plays for others, that just makes us better all the time. And then he's a great supportive teammate off the court in every area, whether guys need rides or just bringing attention to things on the team; he's been a terrific leader.”