Brandon Robinson Back and Better than Ever for UNC

Brant Wilkerson-New

Brandon Robinson is back and better than ever for North Carolina.

Literally.

In three games en route to the Tar Heels’ third-place finish at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Robinson easily had the best offensive run of his career, equaling his career total with two double-figure scoring performances while setting new career highs twice during his time in the Bahamas.

Not bad for a guy seeing his first action of the season after suffering a sprained ankle in the exhibition game vs. Winston-Salem State that kept him out of Carolina’s first four games of the season.

“He’s been there before, he knows what’s going on,” Roy Williams said after the victory over Alabama. “Does help when he shoots the ball in from the 3-point line. … he helps us in every phase of the game; I think our team is much better with him on the court.”

After gradually growing his role over his first two seasons at Carolina, Robinson, a 6-5, 175-pound guard, became a reliable part of the rotation last season thanks to shooting 23 of 50 from 3-point range and keeping the ball moving with 48 assists to just 17 turnovers.

Thanks to his length and understanding of the scheme, Robinson can also be a valuable perimeter defender.

Now a starter for the first time in his career, he showed just that in Nassau, averaging 11.3 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals, shooting 12 of 27 overall and 6 of 16 from 3-point range.

Carolina players other than Robinson have made just 34 of 116 3-point attempts this season, which presents a major floor-spacing issue when defenses are able to collapse into the lane to limit Cole Anthony’s penetration and Armando Bacot’s post offense.

"It gives us a threat outside so we can get the ball inside,” Robinson said. “I still think I can be a lot better in my shot selection, so I just have to improve that going forward.”

But offense wasn’t on his mind as he watched from the sidelines for those four games. Instead, he believed the Tar Heels could get things started on the other end.

“I felt like we had to be better defensively and talk more on the defensive end,” he said. “Offense was just going to come.”

When Carolina needed it most, Robinson posted the best performance of his career in the Tar Heels’ bounce-back win over Oregon with a career-high 13 points, making 4 of his 8 field goal attempts, and perhaps most importantly, both of his free throw attempts.

Those two free throw attempts came with Carolina leading 76-74 after the Tar Heels drew up an inbound play to get the ball in Robinson’s hands with 1.6 seconds left, giving him the opportunity to snuff out any hope the Ducks had.

It’s a small sample size, but Robinson’s offensive efficiency is best on the Carolina roster by a wide margin, but perhaps more importantly, he brings a steady hand and veteran leadership to a perimeter group that hasn’t had much experience playing together.

“He just adds so much to this team,” junior forward Garrison Brooks said. “He contributes in every statistical category and every part of leadership. I feel like that was the part we were really missing; we just need him.”

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Kevin Jairaj | USA TODAY Sports
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