Frank Robinson’s journey to the NBA

Daily Titan Sports Editor
Posted Jan 25, 2010


It’s always nice to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, but if you’re former Cal State Fullerton basketball player Frank Robinson, taking the long way works too.

For Robinson, it has been an arduous journey to make it to the NBA.

Behind the 42-inch vertical leap and 6-foot-9-inch wingspan, is an athlete who has triumphed through many trials and tribulations.

Robinson, 25, is currently a shooting guard for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the National Basketball Development League.

Naturally, he has drawn comparisons to former Titan and 12-year NBA veteran Bruce Bowen because of their defensive ability.

“There’s always a place for you if you can defend. You look at a guy like Bruce Bowen – he can defend and hit open shots – and Frank can do that,” D-Fenders Head Coach Chucky Brown said.

Former CSUF star Frank Robinson drives to the basket against three Pacific Tiger defenders at Titan Gym. Photo by John Klewer/Daily Titan File Photo.

He still has a long road ahead of him, but he is optimistic that he will reach his ultimate goal – playing in the NBA.

Robinson bounced around four high schools and gained the attention of George Mason University and St. Mary’s University, but after a tussle with a teammate had to go elsewhere.

He chose East Carolina. In 2004, he was selected as the Pirates’ most improved player in his only year at ECU, but he only averaged 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds a game.

After his coach was fired and Conference USA split up, he decided to come back home to Southern California.

He ended up at Fullerton because of former Titan star Bobby Brown and the kinship he developed with Titan Head Coach Bob Burton.

“I was at a junior college workout in the summer and he came down and hit his head, and was cut and had blood going everywhere and everyone sat there not doing anything,” Burton said.

Their relationship began when Burton helped Robinson with his injuries even though he was just a spectator.

Robinson never forgot Burton’s act of kindness, and after redshirting in 2004-05, he began a stellar three-year career at CSUF.

However, his rise to prominence was not without any growing pains.

“His first year here was really frustrating for him. I don’t think he started, he was coming off the bench and that was a whole new thing for him, but he adjusted beautifully to it,” Burton said.

He thrived in his new role and became the Big West’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2005-06.

In his second season, Robinson, along with three other teammates, was suspended for the first three games because of an NCAA violation involving the misuse of their book vouchers.

Yet again, Robinson was faced with another challenge, but in 2007-08 he led the Titans to their first NCAA Tournament in 30 years.

“He was really receptive to being criticized, taking coaching and all those things,” Burton said. “He went from a guy who really couldn’t guard anybody, to being the defensive player of the year in the Big West Conference.”

Robinson walks to the free throw line after getting fouled by a UC Riverside player. Photo Courtesy Mattbrownphoto.com

The journey did not stop at Titan Gym.

He worked out for the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings.

“You have to realize that there’s so many guys who went to a bigger school and probably have a bigger name than you, and you have to go out there and out play them,” Robinson said.

Out play them he did.

The Atlanta Hawks invited him to NBA Summer League and he played well enough to go to training camp.

The Hawks ended up waiving him but Robinson didn’t get down on himself.

He decided to hone his game in Germany and Slovenia.

Robinson said that he worked hard on his game when he was in Europe and came back with more of a combo guard mentality.

“It has helped me because of my size. I’m not the tallest, I’m a strong guard and (I have) long arms which has helped me a lot in the process,” Robinson said.

Coming back to the states, he was determined to show everyone how much he had improved when he was overseas.

He played in three preseason games for the Hawks in 2009.

However, the rekindling was cut short when they let him go a second time.

Persevering through yet another release was tough, but Robinson knew that he just had to work harder.

On Dec. 23 the D-Fenders came calling and Robinson has flourished as a starter.

Robinson has provided great defense for the D-Fenders. Photo by Randy Cho/For the Daily Titan.

“He’s an intelligent player. You don’t have to tell him what to do, he just goes out there and makes basketball plays. He has fit in really well,” Brown said.

During the 2010 NBDL Showcase in Boise, Idaho, Robinson was a standout player.

“I picked up full-court, guarded the best player and took him out of the game and those are the things teams are looking for,” Robinson said.

Through nine games for the D-Fenders, Robinson is averaging 15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game.

Considering he is guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player along with his scoring ability – Robinson is a complete player.

“As far as athletically and defensively, he’s learned to put the ball on the floor now. He can do everything and he’s a winner, so I think an NBA team would be really smart to give him a shot,” Burton said.

Playing for the D-Fenders has definitely helped his chances of getting to the next level.

“You have to come into this league (NBA) with a mentality to bring a different aspect of the game to that team and my thing is defense, which should help me out a lot,” Robinson said.

All eyes are watching now and he is just one step closer.

His competitiveness and ability to leave it out all on the court will ensure that he has a successful professional career in basketball.

Robinson is a true testament to the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Maybe his third try will be the lucky charm.



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