Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood Still Montlake

Husky basketball fans throughout the Pacific Northwest let out a collective sigh of relief on Thursday morning, as point guard Nate Robinson announced his intentions to return Washington for his junior season at a press conference held in Hec Edmunson Pavilion.

"As of today, I've decided to come back to school for another year and pretty much just take flight and take Husky basketball back where it needs to be," said Robinson, Washington's high-flying 5-foot-9 guard. "I want to get a Pac-10 championship and get to the big dance again and try to win it all and get a National Championship."

Robinson said he went back and forth with his options, weighing the pros and cons of each and talking to as many people as he could. He finally came to the final decision with the help of his family members by his side.

"It was last night," said the young man known around Seattle simply as "Nate-Rob". "I sat down and talked to my mom and grandmother. It was late. I had my grandmother and auntie come over, and they prayed for me. I called them my prayer team. They come and pray whenever they feel something needs to be prayed on. We were all there praying with my dad on the phone, and we sat there and really thought about it and made the decision to come back to school."

One of the most difficult parts of the process for Robinson was separating the emotions from the hard facts. While he wowed everyone in the NBA camp in Chicago last week, earning praise from the likes of Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing, he was told by teams that he'd most likely be a high-to-mid second round pick in next Thursday's NBA Draft. That meant no guaranteed three-year deal, and considerably less money.

Still, Husky coach Lorenzo Romar says the decision to attend the camp was the best decision Robinson could have made.

"Just a warning," said Romar, "Don't ever count out Nate Robinson. Don't every say we don't know if Nate Robinson can accomplish this. Don't say that.

"I don't know how many NBA people, whether it be general managers or scouts who we spoke to over this process, were just amazed of the type of player that Nate is. They also mentioned his personality and what a great kid Nate seems to be. When Nate is out there, you lose all sense of reality of what is going on out there and you just focus on him and wonder what he is going to do next. He just captivates crowds, and he captivated the NBA people where they just had to tip their caps to him and say this kid has an NBA future."

Robinson, who averaged 13.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore, said a talk with St. Joseph's 5-foot-11 guard Jameer Nelson helped him make his final choice. Nelson, much like Robinson, had the opportunity to leave as an underclassmen but returned to college last year and ultimately became the NCAA Player of the Year while leading his team deep into the tournament.

"I just asked him about what he did last year and how he made his decision," said Robinson, who talked with Nelson for about an hour-and-a-half while at the NBA camp in Chicago. "He said it was kind of hard when you know you are good enough and you are better than most of all these guys and teams aren't guaranteeing that you're going to be picked in the first round, or even drafted at all.

"He sat down and told me to make my own decision, and to make sure I am happy with my decision. He said if he was me, he'd go back to school. By talking to him, that gave me confidence to do what I know I needed to do. By him being a Player of the Year as a 5-11 short guy and being guaranteed in the first round now, it kind of influenced me to come back to school and try to do everything that he did."

By returning to the Huskies for at least one more season, Robinson says he'd like to improve on becoming a better team leader. At his height, one of the main concerns NBA scouts have is whether he can become a person who can handle the ball and direct the offense. In his two years at Washington, he's been mainly the shooting guard while Will Conroy held on to the point guard role. Next season, that'll be Robinson's main focus.

"I want to be more of an all-around player," he said. "(I need to) show more point guard and leadership skills, and get the open guy the ball."

Coach Romar sees it in a different way.

"I don't think it's as much point guard as decision making," said Romar. "Don't put Nate in a box. Just put him in the game, line him up, and just watch. Somehow your team is going to do pretty well. I think when it comes to decision-making, he got much better from a freshman to a sophomore. Now that he's back in school, I think that we'll see him improve even more."

Robinson also made clear that he wouldn't be returning to the football field at Washington, a topic that began to stir after the basketball season ended in mid-March. With that being the case, and with the electric play of Robinson now sure to be back in the fold for next season, Romar says he expects good things out the team coming off their improbable Cinderella season of 2003-04.

"I feel like next year will be our best team since we have been here," said the Husky head coach. "We hope that we establish ourselves on the national level and keep it there." Top Stories