Last June, Boston College men’s basketball combo guard Jerome Robinson was in Santa Monica, Calif. training alongside a handful of NBA players, including Emmanuel Mudiay and Bismack Biyombo. It’s only a matter of days before he’ll once again be putting up shots against those guys and a host of other household names—this time, as a fellow NBA draftee.
On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Clippers selected the Raleigh, N.C. native with the 13th pick of the 2018 Draft, marking the first time a BC player has been picked in the opening round of the draft since Reggie Jackson was taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2011. Even more impressive, the 6-foot-6 guard is the school’s first top-15 pick in 36 years and first-ever lottery selection.
Not many prospects’ draft stock rose quite like Robinson’s in the months leading up to June 21. In fact, all the way back in February, the junior was ignored in virtually every prospect ranking and mock draft on the Internet—even Arian Smith’s nbadraft.net top-100 Big Board, a chart that featured teammate Ky Bowman. At the time, Robinson was the ACC’s second-leading scorer and the first player in the conference to rack up 500 or more points on the season. He was also a week removed from dropping a career-high 46 points in South Bend, Ind.—the most of any ACC player this past season and three shy of the program record.
When all was said and done, Robinson finished the season averaging 20.7 points per game, knocking down an efficient 49 percent of his shots from the field. But it was his numbers against conference foes that really turned heads. As far as ACC-only stats are concerned, the AP All-American recorded 24.3 points per game—3.6 more than Marvin Bagley III, the second pick in the draft—on 55.1-percent shooting, including a 44.5-percent clip from beyond the arc.
He improved in every sense of the word, not only from the floor but also at the charity stripe. Robinson, who converted just 64.3 and 72.2 percent of his free throw attempts as a freshman and sophomore, netted 83 percent of his shots at the line in 2017-18. What was once a weakness turned into a signature strength. While at BC, he never shied away from contact—but as a junior, he finally cashed in at the top of the key, even in the most pressure-cooked moments.
During a Jan 31. matchup against Virginia Tech, Robinson drilled seven-straight free throws in the final 62 seconds of regulation to force overtime. Even though the Eagles went on to lose, the last-minute, self-made run spoke to the guard’s skill and composure. By the season’s end, he logged eight or more free throws on seven separate occasions.
As eye-catching as Robinson’s stats are, it’s his shot-making ability that earned him a first-round draft grade. Hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to upset then-No. 1 Duke and an isolation mid-range shot to beat his hometown team—North Carolina State—in the second round of the ACC Tournament warranted national recognition.
Come March, Robinson finally started appearing on NBA Big Boards. From that point forward, the unanimous All-ACC First Teamer gradually climbed up mock drafts, eventually landing in the top-20. Despite not playing in the Combine’s five-on-five scrimmage, Robinson leapfrogged other prospects by wowing NBA personnel during his pro day, team workouts, and interviews. According to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, organizations were intrigued by the guard’s character and demeanor.
Robinson—who contracted norovirus and watched half his team either graduate or transfer away from the program as a freshman and lost 34 ACC games as underclassmen—could have easily left Chestnut Hill at any point of his collegiate career. Instead, he stayed and served as the cornerstone of BC’s rebuild, ultimately leading the Eagles to their first winning record and postseason appearance in seven years.
It’s likely that Robinson will make an immediate impact as a reserve. After all, he can score on all three levels. His defense, especially on the perimeter, remains a concern, as does his ball security. This past season, he committed an average of 2.7 turnovers per game—although it’s worth noting that some of those could have been due to his high usage rate.
Like every prospect, Robinson will undoubtedly have his fair share of gaffes in Year One. But, regardless of how he fares in his rookie season, his draft story alone will be more than enough to further restore BC’s legitimacy as a Power Five program—something that had been missing for the greater portion of the decade.
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff