There was a time last season when Brandon Robinson just wasn’t playing like himself.
He wasn’t shooting with confidence, he wasn’t making plays and he wasn’t getting much playing time.
“I was just kind of in my own head, not being free,” Robinson, a senior guard for North Carolina, said at the ACC Operation Basketball event on Tuesday.
Teammates Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley kept telling Robinson to be himself. They had seen him perform well in pickup games, and at practice. And they believed he could do it in games, as well. After all, they needed him. The Tar Heels lost freshman Leaky Black to an ankle injury on Jan. 29, and Robinson was the most experienced player off the bench.
“You lose your confidence, you lose everything,” Brooks said. “So that was the biggest thing for me. I was just trying to get him, ‘Hey, stay confident. You’re a really good player, and you’re going to make plays for us.’”
Robinson said that encouragement helped him settle down. After regaining some confidence, he started to play better. Robinson, who is 6-5, 172 pounds, became one of UNC’s defensive stoppers and knocked down some key 3-pointers in the latter part of the season. He was a big reason UNC made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 last year.
But this season, as one of two seniors on this team with NCAA championship experience, Robinson will be counted on even more.
Not only will his leadership be needed as the most experienced player on the 2019-20 Tar Heels, but they’ll need him to score more, too. The Tar Heels lost their top five scorers from last season’s team, accounting for 73 percent of their points.
Robinson likely won’t have to be a 15-point-per-game scorer, but he’ll definitely have to take a big step up. With so many losses and so few proven players at this level, Robinson is the one of the players his teammates will expect to make plays.
Robinson averaged only 3.4 points in 11.8 minutes per game last season. He also knocked down 13 of his 29 three-point attempts.
The Tar Heels’ first game action will be a preseason exhibition Nov. 1 against Winston-Salem State. Through the first eight practices, UNC coach Roy Williams said he’s seen an improvement in Robinson.
“B-Rob and Garrison have been the leaders,” Williams said Tuesday. “I think B-Rob is defending better than he’s ever defended. His shot is going in, and I think he did a nice job last year improving his shot and getting it to go in more for us.”
Brooks, who is the leading scorer returning, said Robinson will be one of the most important pieces on the Tar Heels’ team this season. When asked what makes him so valuable, Brooks said Robinson does everything.
“He’s the leader. He can score the ball. He’s going to rebound, he’s going to assist,” said Brooks, who averaged 7.9 points per game last season. “He’s going to do everything that we need to do to win.”
“I believe in him.”