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Mitchell Robinson is not a trailblazer; poor decisions forced him into the worst one-and-done option

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Mitchell Robinson is a picturesque example of everything that is wrong with the NBA’s 19-year old age limit, the rule that has created the one-and-done era of college basketball.

He’s an athletic marvel at 7-foot, a prototype for what NBA teams are going to look for in a front court defender in the small-ball era. He’s long enough to protect the rim, strong enough to avoid being bullied on the block and athletic and mobile enough that he can function defending on the perimeter, be it switching on ball-screens or manning up against perimeter-oriented bigs. Robinson is good enough defensively that he’s currently thought of as a potential lottery pick despite the fact that his offensive repertoire essentially consists of ‘catch, dunk, repeat’.

He doesn’t need a year of college to turn him into an NBA player. He plays a position where strengthening his brand has almost no monetary value. And, frankly, he doesn’t want to be in college.

Robinson lasted two weeks at Western Kentucky over the summer before leaving school. He took a look at taking a redshirt year at LSU, Kansas and New Orleans before ultimately opting to return to Western Kentucky for the start of the fall semester. He lasted another couple of weeks before leaving again, officially deciding that he will spend this season training and working out for the 2018 NBA Draft, the first that he will be eligible to enter.

The argument is simple, really. College isn’t for everyone. If you’re an elite prospect with no desire for a year’s worth of higher learning and with no real benefit to spending a season playing in college, you shouldn’t be forced to spend a season playing there.

RELATED: Changing the NBA’s age limit will have repercussions, but to evaluate we must stop calling one-and-dones ‘students’

Mitchell Robinson is also an example of a player that really could have used a year away from home.

If he has proven anything during his short stint as a college basketball player, it’s that he is either not the best decision-maker or taking advice from all the wrong people. Shall we list the mistakes that he’s made?:

  1. He is a top ten recruit in the Class of 2017 and a potential lottery pick, yet he made the decision to commit to Western Kentucky in large part because of the presence of his godfather, Shammond Williams, being on Rick Stansbury’s staff. Elite recruits should never pick a school for one year based solely on the presence of someone they know on the staff.
  2. Robinson also signed a letter of intent with WKU. Elite recruits should never sign an LOI period, let alone with a program they have no business playing at. LOI’s give all the power to the school. They can force a player to redshirt a season if they don’t want to release him from the LOI, but they can rescind the scholarship anytime they want. Elite recruits like Robinson. have all the power. Never. Sign. An. LOI.
  3. Robinson never should have enrolled in summer school, either. It was a poorly-kept secret that Robinson was having doubts about going to WKU, particularly after Williams resigned in early July. Whoever told him that it was a good idea to go to summer school with those doubts in mind cost him this year. The second Robinson enrolled in a summer school class, he became a WKU student, meaning that his attempts to enroll elsewhere — LSU, Kansas, New Orleans — were complicated by the fact that he was a one-and-done player that needed an exceedingly unlikely waiver in order to avoid having to redshirt the 2017-18 season as a transfer.

He played his entire recruitment wrong, and it begs the question: Who involved in that process actually had Robinson’s best interests in mind?

Spending a year in college at a power program wouldn’t have necessarily solved that problem — let’s just say that the future success of one-and-dones isn’t always the primary motivation for their college coaches — but a change of scenery could have helped.

And now here we are.

Robinson has left WKU for the second time in the span of two months, and this time it appears to be for good. He will not be playing college basketball. He also won’t be playing professional basketball. He’s reportedly going to spend the next nine months working out in Dallas — which, admittedly, is better than remaining at home during this process — before entering the NBA Draft.

Robinson now becomes a test-case, a player that will be seen as something of a trailblazer should this become a realistic avenue for players of his ilk to take.

But frankly, that does not seem like something that is likely to happen.

Sitting out for a year is the worst option for elite high school basketball players. Every other option has some significant positives.

If the player goes to college, he’ll be playing on national television every night, building a brand and developing a name for himself while playing at a very high level and living a pretty good life. The dorms that basketball players live in are insane. The facilities that they play and work out in are state of the art. They fly first-class everywhere. They play in some of the most raucous and packed arenas anywhere in the world. They live life as a celebrity on their campus. That, plus the going rate for elite recruits, is a pretty good life to lead.

Playing overseas has benefits as well. Their life might not be as enjoyable — living in a foreign country is not easy — and the American public will have no connection to the player, but they’ll be making good money from the team and through sponsorships while spending a year as a professional. Competing against grown men that are grinding out paychecks and would love to plant an elbow in the ribs of some young hotshot American prospect is good way to learn just what it means to make basketball your 9-to-5.

Spending a one-and-done year in the G League has some of those same benefits. The salary won’t be as much, but you’ll be living in a place where English is spoken, the food is normal, and that sponsorship money — or a loan from an agent — will be more than enough to live it up in places like Reno, Canton, Grand Rapids, Sioux Falls and Fort Wayne.

But sitting out a year?

Robinson will be working out by himself — everyone else is going to be in season, whether at the high school, college or professional level. Someone is going to have to pay for that trainer. Someone is going to have to pay for him to live in Dallas. Shoe companies may be willing to float him some money, but the number likely won’t be that high; I don’t see kids camping outside stores for days to buy the newest Air Hassan Whitesides. Maybe he takes out a loan, maybe he pays out of his own pocket — most likely, it will be funded by an agent — but either way, he’s burning through money without an income coming in.

And all of that ignores that Robinson was essentially forced into this move because of his previous decisions.

After he left WKU, he visited Kansas and LSU. He clearly wanted to be at a bigger school. That wasn’t a realistic option, not unless he wanted to be a redshirt.

Robinson painted himself into this corner.

Maybe it will be enough to convince the NBA to change their age limit. Who knows.

But this saga has a much greater chance of leading one-and-done prospects away from mid-major programs that hired their godfather and straight into the arms of the blue-bloods, where they belong.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.