Taking on a different roll than many envisioned for him could end up helping Florida Gators basketball forward Devin Robinson.
The sophomore was widely expected to move into a starting role this year alongside Dorian Finney-Smith, but instead found himself coming off the bench in the Gators exhibition win and season opening win over Navy.
It’s a role that Finney-Smith filled himself two years ago on the Florida Gators basketball Final Four team and it won him the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
Now as the seasoned veteran, Doe-Doe is starting with redshirt junior Devon Walker by his side as Robinson learns to be the first man off the bench.
While the starting five may get the flashing lights and the smoke machine, it’s that first man up that gets Mike Whites attention as a game changer.
“I’ll say it over and over, and I’ll say it to our guys: I don’t care who starts. I care who our sixth man is,” states head coach Mike White.
“It might change game to game. I just want everybody to continue to improve and be pulling in the same direction. Devin happens to be coming off a couple weeks where he’s really playing well. Playing at a different level for him. He’s coming off the bench now. In playing all those minutes, I guess he would be the guy after one game you would perceive to be the sixth man. But heck, Devin may end up starting tomorrow night, he may start five games from now or he may never start. It’s up to Devin and the rest of these guys.”
Robinson played 28 minutes at Navy, the most of anyone on the team. He is currently not in the probable starting lineup for the Gators Monday night matchup against North Carolina A&T, as DFS and DeVon Walker are projected as the starting forwards. That might change, according to White, but in the best way. He now has three guys fighting for two spots and all our proving themselves in practices (and now games) in such a way that shows the Florida Gators are experiencing depth in the position instead of a shortage.
“I think DeVon Walker really played at a high level defensively at Navy,” explained White adding, “even though he only scored two points, I was really pleased with his defensive effort. I thought he was a big factor on that end. And, of course, Dorian playing the 4, I expect to start a lot of games. So Devin is fighting those two guys, but there are a couple other guys in that competition as well.”
Robinson is putting up quite the fight. In addition to leading the team in minutes, he also posted his first career double double with a team high 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds (along with Finney-Smith).
This kind of play has quickly caught the attention of his teammates like guard Kasey Hill who sees a lot of room for Robinson to grow—especially if he continues to post double doubles in 28 minutes.
“I think Devin’s playing real good,” says Hill.
“He has the most potential on this team. When he’s playing like that, we’ll be a tough team. He’s capable of doing that every single night. It’s just all up here in his head. If his head is right, that’s what he’s gonna give us.”
It also gives Hill a target on the court; a body to feed inside too.
“It’s easy to get the ball to Devin. He’s 6’9″, he’s athletic so all you got to do is just throw it up there for him and he’ll go get it.”
As the Florida Gators basketball team really gets rolling on their 2015-2016 season, they’ll look to Robinson more and more. Whether that’s on the bench or right at tip off is yet to be seen; but coach and teammates alike agree that no matter the moment Devin Robinson steps onto the court, he’ll provide an uptick that can only benefit the Gators.
Florida begins their regular season home stand in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center versus North Carolina A&T on Monday November 16, 2015 at 8pm. The game can also be seen on SEC Network+.