Thursday, October 1, 2009

Will He Emerge From The Sticks?

On paper, it can’t be more palpable.

UConn forward Stanley “Sticks” Robinson is primed for an MVP-caliber season in the Big East. The freakishly athletic, 6-foot-9 swingman will automatically materialize as a go-to-guy from the get-go, turning in 20+ point performances every night.

Robinson will utilize his dependable mid-range game to supplement his arsenal of dazzling, rim-rattling dunks. The senior wing will also emerge as a surefire double-double cyborg.

Don’t sleep. Keep an eye on him as an early Big East Player of the Year candidate. Robinson’s volcanic explosions against Marquette and Syracuse (in the grueling, 6-overtime Big East Tournament marathon game) where he rapidly erupted for 19 points and 10 boards and then 28 and 14, respectively, were just the prelude. These eye-popping performances were simply a portent of what’s to come this season.

Yeah. Sure.

And night is day, left is right, Twitter hasn’t garnered any negative publicity for athletes and Binghamton coach Kevin Broadus has done a fine job recruiting a bevy of first-class individuals with stainless records.

Sticks’ stay at UConn has been marred by consistency issues. He’s a surefire NBA prospect, with unmatched athletic gifts and a sky-scraping ceiling.

He’s a quiet, fun-loving, chill kid from Alabama who came down to UConn, a virtual launching pad for NBA careers, to continue the Huskies’ tradition of “Wing U.”

Coming in, Sticks knew he had a heavy burden, with the shoes of alumni such as Caron Butler, and Rudy Gay to fill in order to keep tradition intact. He’s shown glimpses, but sometimes the quiet kid is pin-drop quiet on the court.

Don’t get it twisted. Jeff Adrien spoke softly but carried a big stick every time he stepped on the hardwood. The swagger does not have to be manifested through words or attitude.

Sticks has shown that swagger on the court, skying for putbacks and flushing down alley-oop passes from Kemba Walker and former point guard A.J. Price. He’s not exactly quiet after he unleashes a highlight-reel dunk.

But if there is one word commonly associated with Robinson, it’s so obvious it nearly falls off the page: unpredictable.

He’s the kid who lit up Maine for 32 as a spindly sophomore and followed this showing up with two points on 1-of-5 shooting (his lone two points coming on an ESPN Top Ten Plays putback banger) in a conference loss.

Sticks pulled off similar feast-or-famine, paltry-or-plenty acts last season. He pulled down 15 rebounds in a win at West Virginia, but then underwent a five-game conference stretch where he averaged a meager 2.6 points and 2.0 boards and was a veritable Houdini on the court.

Those scanty numbers don’t have much appeal to the NBA scouts, who attend UConn games as if they have season tickets.

There was a damn search warrant out for Robinson’s game and swag. Then, during a home game against Route 6 rival Providence, who had UConn’s number prior to a humiliating 94-61 drubbing, the mammoth manhunt was called off.

Robinson erupted for 18 points, two on a wowing alley-oop via Kemba Walker, and longtime Husky coach Jim Calhoun—who is currently negotiating a long-term deal with UConn, one which could keep the old general at the helm into his 70s—thought he had found his swingman.

“Welcome back, Stanley,” the loquacious Calhoun quipped in the post game press conference.

“It’s nice to see you. I haven’t seen you for about a month, but it’s great to see you…..Stanley’s reemergence today, and confidence in what he did, was critical for us. Really critical for us.”

Robinson’s role this year is really critical for the Huskies.

His production continued to see-saw following the Providence game, albeit he closed out the season on a solid note, turning in three double-doubles in the last six games.

Will the Sticks continue to show up once every other game, or will the springy kid who bleeds NBA talent fill the scoring void left by guys like Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien, and A.J. Price?