The Walkthrough: Robinson’s hide-and-seek has ended

Evan Heichelbech is the sports editor of the College Heights Herald during Fall 2017.

Evan Heichelbech

7,495. That’s the total number of words that have been written about Mitchell Robinson over the past 15 months or so by various writers at the Herald.

Zero. That’s the number of words that have been written about Mitchell Robinson playing a basketball game for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers over the past 15 months or so by various writers at the Herald.

As I add to the already-too-extensive Robinson archive right now, I wonder if any more words are even worth the time. So, for the third and absolute last time, I will opine on the most mysterious man in WKU basketball history.

Unfortunately for scenic and literary aesthetics, there was no abandoned dorm room this time. There was no confusion or phone call across campus from E.A. Diddle Arena to Bemis Lawrence Hall. There was no surprised Rick Stansbury at a press conference.

There was also no homecoming, no glorious welcome back, no prodigal son narrative.

For me, there was no surprise. No shock value, not even an immediate raising of the eyebrows or dropping of the jaw. Instead, there was a laugh.

The comparison of Robinson’s short but long timeline of events to a Netflix series is still fitting. We thought the season finale came when the original exodus occurred in late July. But he returned 32 days later. Again, like clockwork, Robinson is back in the news just short of a month since he last was.

I will no longer refer to him as the “best” or “highest” recruit in WKU history, because as a prominent figure in WKU basketball history reminded me in an email in early August, that title belongs to the late, and undoubtedly great, Jim McDaniels.

McDaniels was the USA’s number one ranked high school player in 1967. There was no McDonald’s All-American game in 1967, but McDaniels was MVP of McDonald’s predecessor, the Dapper Dan Classic.

Close rankings and recruiting opinions aside, the difference in McDaniels and Robinson is easily discernable. McDaniels wanted to be at WKU and Robinson never did. McDaniels came to the Hill, stayed on the Hill and delivered a Final Four banner to Bowling Green.

The only thing Robinson delivered to Bowling Green was a headache and a short-handed roster.

With Robinson gone, the Hilltoppers’ roster stands at 10 eligible players. Stansbury’s window to add a graduate transfer, which was very much open after Robinson originally left, is likely closed now.

When Robinson departed for the first time, the roster was not in ruins by any means. But that was two months ago and the season isn’t getting any further away. Expected starting guard Jordan Brangers has since left the program and another frontcourt player in Robinson Idehen never enrolled at WKU.

I don’t know what Robinson leaving means for the Hilltoppers in 2017-2018, but I know that having just 10 players at your disposal doesn’t make anything easier.

As I stated before, I cannot relate to the amount of attention and pressure Robinson receives on a daily basis, and I don’t know what is going through his head. But from an outsider’s perspective, Robinson has done nothing but complicate things for his own future.

Maturity, accountability and adversity are all things coaches — and most certainly NBA scouts and front offices — value greatly. The national media hasn’t let this story go, and unfortunately for Robinson, the first thing that is going to register in people’s minds when the name “Mitchell Robinson” is mentioned will be how he couldn’t make up his mind and couldn’t stay put. In the perfect world, his talent and skills on the hardwood can erase this saga from the immediacy of people’s minds, because responding to every negative tweet directed at him sure as hell won’t.

It would be nothing but foolish for me or anyone else to assume that this second departure has provided finality in the situation. The season doesn’t start until Nov. 10. I’ll be courtside for tipoff, and I won’t be surprised in the slightest if Robinson is there or if he isn’t. The only thing that would surprise me would be seeing him suit up for Missouri State and play against the Hilltoppers.

For now, I will be stuck forever wondering how a man I never saw play and never spoke to in person found a way to make me write so much about him. One would think that so many words written about a player who never accomplished anything at WKU, especially in front of my own eyes, would be almost entirely speculative in nature. But amazingly, they are not. These words hold truth: Robinson has left Bowling Green for the last time, and he isn’t coming back. I think.

Sports Editor Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 502-415-1817 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.