GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Devin Robinson opened Florida’s intrasquad scrimmage Friday by draining a 3-pointer from each corner, showing off a buttery smooth stroke and a whole lot more throughout the competitive session.
His 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range, his team-high 23 points in 22 minutes and efficient 8-of-9 shooting overall were each very impressive.
Above all, though, it was simply encouraging to see how well the junior forward looked physically as he returns from a stress fracture in his foot that postponed his hopes to turn pro after last season.
“Devin was very good today,” Gators coach Mike White said after the scrimmage. “… He’s in very good shape. He’s as strong as he’s been. He’s ready along those lines, yep.”
If everything had gone according to plan, Robinson likely wouldn’t have been on the court for the Gators on Friday.
The 6-foot-8 forward would be in an NBA training camp of some sort fighting for a roster spot. That was his plan, at least — to put out feelers after his sophomore season, likely enter the NBA Draft last June and, if the feedback was strong enough, begin his pro career.
After averaging 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game in his second season at Florida, he was realistically a fringe prospect, but it was his option to see what interest was out there. As long as he didn’t hire an agent, he would be able to change his mind by the given deadline and stay in school.
In the end, though, there wasn’t really a decision to make.
The stress fractured popped up after the college season, he underwent surgery on his foot in late April and then faced a recovery time that meant no opportunity to attend pre-draft workouts or impress scouts.
“It was tough. Mentally, it was really hard because I put my name in the draft and then I happened to come back. That was kind of tough for me to transfer my brain back to playing another year of college,” Robinson admitted earlier this month. “Physically it was tough just knowing you can’t do what you want to do. You see everybody getting better on the court. I’m watching summer workouts, everybody’s getting better, (and) I’m over there sitting in a chair shooting off a chair and stuff.”
It wasn’t until August that he was walking normally again, he said, and he didn’t really start testing his foot basketball-wise until the Gators opened preseason practice.
“It was a long time I was off of it so it was tough. Right now it’s still not 100 percent — mobility around the foot and stuff like that — but it’s starting to get better each day,” Robinson said during the team’s media day back on Oct. 6. “… I’m trying to ease my way into it so I can have a great year and finish the year off strong.”
That might still be a smart plan, but Robinson looked terrific Friday and that untimely foot injury could end up being a blessing in disguise for him.
And certainly for the Gators.
With 2015-16 leading scorer Dorian Finney-Smith gone, there is more opportunity for Robinson to assert himself offensively — especially if his perimeter shot really has improved after he connected on just 34 percent of his attempts from 3-point range last season.
“We had the conversation with Devin, if you want to come back, obviously we’d love to have you back and continue to help you with your development and give you the platform here to continue to improve and continue to be a Gator, and be a productive, successful Gator. He’s come back with a great attitude,” White said at media day.
“(Team trainer) Duke Werner, he’s the best, and he’s been very meticulous and thorough with Devin. I think there was some talk a month ago, should we get him into the routine now and why would we do that? Let’s just take our time.”
Improving Robinson’s shot remained an emphasis throughout the process, though, even if that meant using a chair while doing it during the part of the rehab when he wasn’t supposed to be testing the foot extensively.
“He’s just gotten a ton of reps just working on his stroke simply. He’s really shooting the ball well. He’s shooting as well as anyone on our team right now,” White said. “He also probably added a couple pounds up top. So we’re excited. We’re excited about Devin right now.”
After raining in the 3-pointers Friday, Robinson went to work on his shot-fake, setting up a nice drive and short hook from the paint. He worked his way to the line and knocked down the mid-range jumper as well.
While he seems to be well on his way physically, Robinson sounds like he’s also past the what-ifs mentally as well.
And in the end, this might just all work out for the best for him.
“It was tough, but I talked to my family and they were like, ‘Everything happens for a reason. God probably has a bigger plan for you. So just take it as a lesson and a blessing that you can come back and still play college basketball and still do the thing that you love,'” he said earlier this month. “So I just had to open my mind, open my eyes up again that I can still play basketball, and it might be a positive. It might not (have been) my time at that time.”