NBA Finals The Next Stop On Duncan Robinson's Journey: 'It's Surreal'
Michigan Wolverines basketball has a former player in the NBA Finals for the first time since Juwan Howard and the Miami Heat won the 2013 championship. Former standout Duncan Robinson and his own Heat club are set to take on the Los Angeles Lakers for all the marbles, with the series beginning Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
He averaged 13.5 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting from three-point range in the regular season, before cooling off a bit in the postseason, though he's still averaging 11.3 points per contest and shooting threes at a 40 percent clip through 13 playoff games.
Robinson, of course, has made the journey from D-III player at Williams College to sharpshooter at Michigan and now a starter in Miami. Once the ball tips off Wednesday, he'll become the only player in the sport's history to compete in the D-III national championship game (2014), D-I title game (2018) and an NBA Finals.
Despite now being at the pinnacle, playing for a world championship, Robinson hasn't lost sight of how he's gotten to this point, even though he hasn't been able to fully grasp the the fact that he's here, mostly because of how dialed in the Heat are on winning.
"It’s surreal," Robinson said on ESPN's SVPod with Scott Van Pelt this week. "I feel like in instances like this, where the odds are stacked against you or what have you, that’s kind of the go-to line, — ‘It’s surreal. I don’t believe it,’ or whatever. But I really haven’t had the time to fully process it. It’s been little moments here and there where I’ll get a text or have a conversation or be in a Finals media session and it’ll kinda hit me.
"But all in all, I’m really just kind of focused on the task at hand. It’s just what’s next. I’m sure, at some point maybe after this run when I get a chance to settle down a little bit, I’ll be able to look back on it with some perspective."
Robinson reflected further on how he's prepared for this moment, saying that playing under former Michigan head coach John Beilein in Ann Arbor is very similar, scheme-wise, to what the Heat run under head mean Erick Spoelstra.
The fifth-seeded Heat, the third-lowest team to reach the NBA Finals since 1984, have improved all season long, and are now playing their best basketball when it matters most — boasting a 12-3 record during the playoffs up to this point — something he's familiar with, having played for Beilein and the Wolverines.
"I learned a ton from Coach Beilein," Robinson said. "He’s a master of the game, knows how to teach it, does it at such a high level. And just his attention to detail is unmatched. I don’t know if I’ll ever play for a coach who checks boxes the way he does — he makes sure his teams are prepared, he makes sure his teams are ready and his teams always get better, year after year. It’s no accident that maybe they’re kind of sputtering around in October, November, and by March they’re playing their best basketball."
Another similarity between Michigan and Miami is the strong culture both have, Robinson said.
"There’s a lot of similarities," Robinson continued. "The big buzz word that everybody likes to throw around is 'culture,' and you hear about it all the time. But I think the similarity is that both programs, whether it be Michigan or Miami, really make concerted efforts to develop culture. And it starts with habits, every single day, maximizing opportunity and taking advantage of every opportunity, so that you stack these days on top of each other, and after days, weeks and months, you have something to show for it."
Robinson certainly has something to show for it, and will have a chance to grab another trophy when it's all said and done. Still, he'll take in the moment tonight and throughout the series.
"If we’re not going to appreciate the moments like this, then what’s it all for?" he asked.
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