ORLANDO | University of Florida junior forward Devin Robinson was the Virginia high school player of the year in 2014, averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds per game for Christchurch School in Chesterfield.
But it wasn’t enough to draw the interest of the University of Virginia, which was located only 66 miles from Robinson’s home town, UVA didn’t offer Robinson a scholarship, and there was even a family connection: Robinson’s mother graduated from Virginia.
He eventually signed with former Gators’ coach Billy Donovan, over Notre Dame, Connecticut, Oklahoma State and Indiana. Robinson said he will not be holding any grudges on Saturday when the Gators play the Cavaliers in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Amway Center (8:40 p.m., TNT).
“It was close to home, 45 minutes to an hour, but they had really low interest in me,” Robinson said on Friday before the Gators practiced. “Maybe I didn’t fit in their style. I really don’t care.”
Robinson led UF’s first-round victory over East Tennessee with 24 points and seven rebounds. UF coach Mike White labeled Robinson one of the most improved players not only on his team and the SEC but in the nation.
“Obviously we’re really proud to have Devin,” White said. “He’s really playing his best basketball right now and he’s a wonderful kid as well.”
Since being held scoreless against Mississippi State on Feb. 18, Robinson has averaged 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds and connected on .450 of his 3-point attempts.
The X Factor
Veteran Florida State broadcaster Gene Deckerhoff asked the obvious question of Seminoles’ point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes during Friday’s news conference: will he have any kind of an identity crisis when FSU players Xavier University on Saturday in their second-round West regional game?
“The chant I heard [Thursday] when Xavier was playing Maryland was ‘Let’s go X! Let’s go X!,’” Deckerhoff said. “Is that going to have an effect on your game tomorrow?”
Rathan-Mayes said he will do his best block out whether it’s Musketeer fans rooting for their team or FSU fans rooting for him.
“When I’m out there I don’t really hear the crowd too much, or the chants,” he said. “It’s cool that we’re playing Xaiver but we’ve got a game to win and that’s all that counts.”
White wants Allen to keep shooting
Florida guard KeVaughn Allen, the team’s mercurial leading scorer, is another scoring rut. He had only seven points against East Tennessee and shot 1 of 11 from the floor. Since making five of six shots against Arkansas, Allen has made 10 of 37 (.270) overall and 7 of 26 (.269) from the 3-point line.
White’s answer is for the 6-foot-2 sophomore to keep firing away.
“We’ll call his number early and often and I want him to let that thing fly,” White said. “Your better scorers have got to step up against a defense like this. We’re going to urge him to be aggressive. I’m sure he will be.”
Eagles good prep for Seminoles
Third-seeded Florida State’s 86-80 victory over No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday was a tough night’s work for the Seminoles. They never led by more than 12 points in the second half and the Eagles cut the score to five points twice in the closing minutes.
With the victory in the books, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said it might have served his team better than a first-round blowout.
“Sometimes when you win a game by a large margin, it gives you a false sense of security,” he said. “Obviously we would love not to be as stressed as we were the last couple of minutes but the main thing is winning and moving on. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Florida Gulf Coast. We expected a hard-fought game and that’s what we got. Any time you can get the challenge of playing a tough opponent, that prepares you to move forward.”