Catching Up With The Miami Heat’s Duncan Robinson Who Played His First Year At Williams

Catching Up With The Miami Heat’s Duncan Robinson Who Played His First Year At Williams

BOSTON, MASS. – The Miami Heat's Duncan Robinson arrived on the Williams College campus in September of 2013 and word spread quickly that there was a very talented first year player playing pickup daily with the returning members of the 2013-14 Williams College basketball team.

Everyone who participated in those preseason pickup games in Lasell Gym raved about the shooting ability and the basketball awareness of  the 6'7" 185-pound player from New Castle, N.H. None of the returning Eph players were thinking that Duncan Robinson would someday play in the NBA as they were more excited about having him on their team.

Duncan Robinson more than lived up to the hype and rave reviews of his Eph teammates his first season. He did not start every one of the Ephs' 33 games, but he did start 31 of the 32 games he played in and he led all of the players on that 2013-14 team in minutes played (1,110). 

 Robinson driving for the Magic

Robinson had played his high school career at The Governor's Academy in Byfield, Mass. before enrolling as a post-graduate student at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he helped lead that team to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) title. He played AAU ball for the Middlesex Magic, where his coach was Mike Crotty '03. Mike Crotty was the point guard on the Ephs' 2003 NCAA Championship team and also on the Eph team that beat NCAA DI Holy Cross at Holy Cross in December of 2003, snapping the Crusaders' 26-game home court win streak. From 2005-08 Crotty worked for the Celtics as the Director of Player Development.

Robinson, Crotty & Connaughton

The advance word from Robinson's Eph teammates in early September was that "this kid can play" and "he can really shoot the ball" became reality as soon as the season began.

Robinson became the first Eph freshman to score over 500 points (548) in a season. In addition, Robinson and senior center Mike Mayer collected numerous post-season honors.

Mayer and Robinson both received honors from the Eastern College Athletic Conference New England Division III coaches with Mayer being named to the region's First Team, while Robinson was named the Rookie of the Year.

Mayer was also named First Team All-NESCAC, while Robinson was named to the All-NESCAC  Second Team and also named the conference's Rookie of the Year.

And there was more.

Both Mayer and Robinson were named to the 2014 NCAA DIII All-Tournament team for an Eph team that posted a 25-8 record ad appeared in the NCAA DIII championship game. In the NCAA Tournament semifinal contest versus archrival Amherst, Robinson posted a game-high 30 points on 13-18 shooting, sparking the Ephs to a convincing 98-69 win. The Ephs, however,  were defeated in the final seconds in the championship game the next day by Wisconsin-Whitewater, 75-73.

Robinson became the first Eph freshman to earn NCAA All-Tournament honors. Mayer was also named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. 

Additionally, the Eph duo also collected All-American honors from D3Hoops.com with Mayer earning First Team honors and Robinson being named the National Rookie of the Year and tabbed for the Fourth Team.

Robinson scored a game high 30 points vs.
archrival Amherst 
in NCAA Semifinals.
Photo: Keith Lucas

In his only year at Williams, Robinson also led the Ephs in 3-pointers made (81-179), 3-point % (45.3), free throw percentage (87.8%/ 79-90), blocks (36), and steals (36). He also contributed 208 rebounds and 59 assists in a most impressive debut campaign.

After his stellar first year at Williams, Robinson decided to explore NCAA DI opportunities when Eph head coach Mike Maker announced that he was leaving Williams for the head-coaching position at NCAA DI Marist College. Maker then assisted Robinson in making a connection with John Beilein the head coach at the University of Michigan. Maker had previously served as an assistant coach under Beilein at West Virginia.

As a result of Maker's connection with Beilein, Robinson was offered a full scholarship to play at Michigan. Robinson is believed to be the first NCAA DIII player to go from DIII to DI and receive a full scholarship. Robinson played three years at Michigan after sitting out what would have been his sophomore year at Williams per NCAA rules on players transferring to NCAA DI.

In his senior year at Michigan Robinson was named The Big 10 Sixth Man of the Year, earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, and helped the Wolverines advance to the NCAA DI title game. Robinson played in 115 consecutive games at Michigan and scored 1,072 points and with his 548 points at Williams he tallied 1,620 career points in four years collegiate basketball.

Robinson is the first Eph to play in the NBA, but the first Eph drafted by the NBA was sharpshooting Bob Mahland '62 who was drafted in the 14th round in the 1962 NBA Draft by the Chicago Zephyrs. Mahland, however, had already begun working at IBM when the 1962 NBA Draft was held. Mahland asked his IBM supervisor if he could use some vacation time to try out for the Zephyrs, but his request was denied and thus he was unable to go to Chicago for the tryouts. Mahland is retired from IBM and now lives in Charlotte, N.C., but annually makes trips to Williamstown to see the Ephs compete.

Harry Sheehy '75, now the Director of Athletics at Dartmouth and former basketball coach and Athletic Director at Williams, had a free agent tryout with the Philadelphia 76ers, but was not offered a contract. Sheehy joined the Athletes in Action basketball team that played internationally and traveled the world representing the USA. When he retired from Athletes in Action, Sheehy was their all-time leader in points and rebounds and one night in the LA Sports Arena Sheehy lit up the Russian National Team for 35 points.

Eric Gingold '95 who stood 7' 4" had two free agent tryouts with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1996 and 1997, but Gingold went unsigned both times by the Bulls and he went on to play professionally in Israel. Gingold is now an attorney in New York City. 

Robinson was not chosen in the 2018 NBA draft, but he did sign a Summer League contract with the Miami Heat, which had no draft picks in 2018. The Summer League opportunity turned into a two-way contract with the Heat for Robinson who played for the Sioux City (South Dakota) Skyforce in the NBA's G-League last winter. From his stellar play with the Skyforce Robinson received a few call-ups from the Heat and he ended up playing in 15 NBA games last season. His first NBA points came on his first shot in the league in a game against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. As you might expect, it was a three-pointer from just to the left of the top of the key.

On August 9, 2019 the Heat signed Robinson to a standard NBA two-year contract. Robinson is the first NCAA DIII player to play in the NBA since Devean George who entered the league in the 1999-2000 season and played 11 seasons. George played collegiately at Augsburg University in Minnesota and he was drafted 23rd overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. George played in the NBA for the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and the Golden State Warriors.

Since leaving Williams Robinson has added thirty-pounds of muscle to his frame and his elevating his playing weight to 215 pounds. Robinson has played in all 21 games this season for the Heat who sport a 15-6 record. He has started 16 of the 21 games and he averages 25.5 minutes a game. In addition, Robinson is averaging 11.2 points a game and he leads the Heat in 3-point percentage among players who average over 20 minutes a game, connection on 43.5% of his shots from behind the arc.

In his most memorable performance to date as an NBA player, Robinson on November 20th hit eight threes in the first half in a game in Miami against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In one five-minute span he scored 21 points, draining seven threes. He ended the game with nine threes and 29 points.

In a twist of irony, the head coach of the Cavaliers who witnessed Robinson rain down threes was none other than John Beilein, who coached Robinson at the University of Michigan.

In Boston on December 4 in front of some 100 friends and neighbors from New Hampshire as well as many Eph alums, Robinson played 29 minutes and scored 10 points in the Heat's 112-93 loss.