Kansas junior Thomas Robinson wasn’t offered a scholarship by Kansas until July 8 leading up to his senior year of high school. Robinson also was not a McDonald’s All-American. However, he is one of the best college players in the country who didn’t make the McDonald’s game.
Thursday live on ESPNU (5:30 p.m. ET), the 2012 McDonald’s All-American Game rosters will be announced. The reality is the game will feature future All-Americans, a handful of lottery picks and some guys who won’t be able to meet the supersized expectations. It happens every year.
As a senior, Robinson transferred to powerful Brewster Academy. The move helped him finish strong in the classroom and forced him to play against a juggernaut schedule of prep and post-grad kids. There was a part of him that probably thought it would bolster his McDonald’s candidacy.
I distinctly remember communicating with T-Rob in the weeks leading up to the National Prep Showcase, the biggest stage in the country for prep school competition. Robinson put all his McDonald’s eggs in that event’s basket, thinking that a strong performance there would get him into the game.
He shouldered a tremendous amount of pressure entering the event and had a poor showing. As a result -- fair or unfair -- Robinson's McDonald's candidacy ended.
“I think he was putting a lot of pressure on himself to perform,” Brewster coach Jason Smith said. “Maybe people were telling him that at that event he had to perform well there in order to make that game.”
It certainly was his biggest chance of the year.
“It’s unfortunate that our guys feel so much pressure to perform in the first event we go to in November,” Smith said. “It’s a national stage with a lot of media and it’s not really a fair evaluation for them. At that point in the year we’ve only had two weeks of practice.”
My point is this: Robinson missed out on the McDonald’s game, finished No. 40 in the ESPNU 100 and years later, he’s one of the elite players in college basketball and a potential lottery pick in the NBA.
Yes, the McDonald’s game is significant. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s what every high school kid dreams of and it matters in the moment. However, it isn’t is the end of the line if you don’t make the game.
Dwyane Wade didn’t make the McDonald’s game. Deron Williams didn’t either. Ditto for Russell Westbrook. Don’t get me wrong, LeBron, CP3, Kobe, Dwight, Melo, D-Rose; they’re alums and the game is a good predictor for many.
Maybe the reason why T-Rob is who he is today is because he took a perceived slight, turned it into a chip and set that chip on his shoulder. Maybe not earning an invitation was just the thing he needed to motivate himself and point his game toward greatness.