Virginia Tech guard Justin Robinson twice finished Top 5 among all players in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the most assists per game.
He missed time during his senior year due to injury but as a junior, he was one of the most productive players in the country when operating out of the pick-and-roll as the primary ballhandler. When including passes, he averaged 1.07 points per possession on this play type. That ranked Top 15 (minimum: 350 possessions) among all D1 players in 2017-18.
Robinson was projected at No. 53 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft in a recent mock draft published by ESPN. The guard spoke to HoopsHype about how he has prepared for the draft so far this offseason.
What kind of feedback have you been getting from teams after shining at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and G League Elite Camp?
Justin Robinson: They all like that I can run a team, create for others and be an extension of the coach on the court. I know my niche in the league and know who I can play and won’t play out of my role and be somebody that I’m not. They also like that I’m a sneaky shooter. I’ve proven during my college career that I can shoot at a high clip and I think that will translate well to the NBA and I’ll knock down open shots.
What did you learn about the NBA G League while you were at their Elite Camp?
JR: There is so much connection and I think so many have the same system. The G League is becoming the best at seeding to the NBA because it has so many eyes from scouts and executives.
How do you think your ability to be a spot-up shooter will translate to the next level?
JR: I think how we played at Virginia Tech prepared me really well for that. We moved the ball really well and that put me in good positions. I was also creating for others but when they created for me, it allowed me to thrive. I had a goal to increase my three-point percentage every year and I did that. During the tournament, I made about half my shots from the three-point line. I think that was a big testament to me getting reps up while I was injured. My last year in college, I also improved my range.
I’d love to hear more about what has kept you motivated when you’ve been injured or slumping.
JR: My whole life, I’ve always been battling adversity. If I don’t make shots, I’ll get mad at myself. But my teammates and coaches really picked me up. I learned not to dwell on the past. I’ve been getting so much better at that. You see the guys shooting at a low rate in the NBA and they know that it’s going to fall for them eventually. So I take that to help me stay confident no matter what happens. I know I can play at the next level and that is going to help me succeed and sustain a spot and have a role. I try to control what I can. I’m going to have to be in the best position for myself to succeed. It’s not about hearing my name on draft night but being in the right fit. The art of a true point guard feels like a lost concept. But as a true point guard, teams know I’m underrated and I’ll always be a tough competitor.
You’ve been excellent at creating opportunities for others on the court. What allowed you to be so successful in this endeavor?
JR: My usage rate on the pick-and-roll in college was really high. I was able to read tags and make excellent passes. Nobody on my team was selfish. It’s been helpful. Teams like that I can hit people on the money at a high speed and at a high rate. There were times when my teammates wanted me to take over. My junior year, in conference games, I was averaging 18 points with 6 assists. This year, I had a really big game against Syracuse where I had 35 points and 9 assists. I know what it takes to win, that’s how I’m built. I can score if needed but the main point for me is creating for others.
Speaking of which, I’d love to hear more about your relationship with your college teammate Nickeil Alexander-Walker as you both go through this draft process together.
JR: It’s really nice, we talk all the time and check up on each other. We are competitors and were great teammates. We were able to learn about each other and talk daily about life, God and things like that. It’s built us to be prepared for what’s coming. I know he’ll do well at the next level and that he’s built for this and born for this. It’s big for both of our successes. He knows what I did for him and I know what he did for him.
What was your relationship like with the support staff at Virginia Tech?
JR: If you called everyone on staff and the people on campus, the people who worked in the dining halls and our janitors, they would actually say that I was probably one of the most interactive people that I have been around. I really base my life on relationships. It’s really what I’m best at. My academic advisor and I still talk all the time. I’m going to take a summer class. The janitor, Miss Mary, brightened my day every morning when I came in at 5:30 am. I have a really good relationship with our team chaplain. We had an optional chapel and I would go at 6:00 am on a gameday. I have every note from every lesson and we still talk about the verses.
Where did you learn that kind of mentality and where did you pick up that compassion for people?
JR: It’s just how I was raised. My parents are really like that, too. No matter who you are, we’ll bring you in and treat you like you’re one of ours. I like to make other people happy and that’s just me being me. I’m great with kids and great with people overall. Teams see how competitive I am when I’m the court. But if the draft was based on team meetings, I’d be a lottery pick.
What do you like to do with your time when you’re not playing basketball?
JR: I like to be around my family and my friends. I wish I could spend more time with them. I listen to new music. I also like to play Fortnite and Call of Duty and 2K. I try to build my relationship with God and he is tattooed all over my body. I take a lot of pride in that.
Oh, that’s very interesting. What are some of the tattoos that you have?
JR: My favorite bible verse is on my chest. It’s Luke 1:37 (“For nothing is impossible with God”) and I have a dove right under that, which is kind of for everyone who has passed in my family. There is a cross right under that. I have praying hands on my side. There is also a half lion face where the eye is going into crosses, so it’s half lion-hearted and half God-filled. I also have God’s promise under that.
What did you study in school while you were attending Virginia Tech?
JR: I graduated early in three and a half years, which is kind of cool. If I had graduated two months earlier, I would have graduated at the age of 20. That’s something I was really blessed with, my ability with my brain. I took pride in being All-ACC All-Academic. I think I got it three or four times. I graduated with a major in communications and a minor in business leadership. Now I’m in classes for my masters. I have one semester towards that complete. I will absolutely want to finish that. We have a program for Agriculture and Life Sciences. I want my concentration in leadership. I think that will help me on and off the court with my relationships.
Anything else you think would be good to add for a story like this one?
JR: I go by the motto of production over hype. You can ride that train all you want but when you do that, you might get exposed. You can’t hide when you have a ball in your hand. I’m the youngest senior in the draft because I’ve always been young. I started school early. There is still a lot of room to grow and get better.