The Mitchell Robinson Saga: A WKU original series

Chalmette High School Senior Mitchell Robinson (23) attempts to score a basket in a game against Ballard High School on Sat. Feb. 11, 2017 at Bowling Green High School. The 7 foot 5-star recruit signed to WKU on Nov. 15, 2016. 

Evan Heichelbech

WKU’s first ever McDonald’s All-American wasn’t even on campus long enough to eat a happy meal.

In what felt like a Netflix drama series that was binge-watched across the nation, the saga of Mitchell Robinson at WKU has ended.

But it didn’t end without leaving behind some memorable scenes.

First, there was the hype-generating promotional trailer released in the summer of 2016 when Robinson verbally committed to Head coach Rick Stansbury and the Hilltoppers. WKU fans were foaming at the mouth, already imagining a 7-foot athletic powerhouse dunking all over Diddle Arena and running through Conference USA with his teammates riding his coattails to the NCAA Tournament.

For the next few months, recruiting sites were crowning him with honors and accolades, while fans simultaneously added to the long list of “firsts” and “bests” he was sure to bring them.

Highest rated recruit in school history. First McDonald’s All-American. First C-USA title. First NCAA Tournament appearance under Stansbury. Highest draft pick in school history. Best NBA player to come out of WKU. First C-USA lottery pick since Tyreke Evans.

But then there were some production issues. On Nov. 27, 2016 he tweeted he wasn’t coming anymore. He had “decided to DECOMMIT from the University of Western Kentucky.”  

How can you “decommit” from a school that doesn’t exist? It didn’t matter, because the tweet was quickly deleted and he assured Stansbury his account was hacked. Besides, he had already signed a National Letter of Intent binding him to come and assume the starring role waiting for him.

Last February he played a high school game in Bowling Green and WKU’s ongoing 2016-2017 season was forgotten, thrown aside and removed from fans’ memory before it officially ended. Promotional video number two had created just as much hype.

Fast forward to July 3, simply one month ago but what feels like oh so much longer in our saga. Almost all of the crew is on campus and filming is about to start. But a co-director, Robinson’s godfather Shammond Williams, bounces.

Worry was oozing in once again. Where’s Mitch? Is he still coming? Is he going to be on set in time for summer sessions and workouts?

 

FADE IN

One singular band of light glimmers through a vacant dorm room inside Bemis Hall on an early Thursday morning.

A phone rings across campus in Diddle Arena and the camera pans to the locker room where one locker appears totally empty, nothing but a stool left in front of it.

FADE OUT  

 

… 

Mitchell Robinson has been gone from Bowling Green for a week. He was suspended “indefinitely” for one day. Now, he is free to transfer.

Stansbury announced in a statement this past Tuesday that he and Robinson agreed that “it would be best for both sides to allow [Robinson] to move in a different direction.”

While a lot of fans are understandably disappointed at the big-time recruit, with a seemingly bigger ego’s, departure, it certainly can’t be too surprising. From the moment he verbally committed, anything Robinson did drew loads of attention.

After his Twitter account was “hacked,” all of his social media accounts became a must-follow for fans and the media in order to keep tabs on the teenage savior of WKU basketball.

Perhaps no move of his proved more volatile than when he bolted last week and didn’t tell anyone when, where, why or how. For the better part of a day, there was no known communication between Robinson and WKU. His social media accounts became the only way to gather clues of his whereabouts.

He posted on his Snapchat account later on Friday a picture with a caption which read “vacation.” Shortly before it was announced he had been granted his release to transfer, Robinson posted another Snapchat with the words “done deal.”

Read more: Five-star recruit still committed to WKU after social media hack

Read more: Consensus five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson commits to WKU

In the aftermath of the Robinson saga, I’m not going to speculate why he left, what his intentions were or even where he may be headed or what his best options are. Because in the totality of the situation, the highest-rated recruit in WKU history will never play for the Hilltoppers.

But the ironic truth is, WKU doesn’t need Robinson’s pedigree or coattails to ride on. And quite frankly, it doesn’t need his drama.

Around the same time Robinson was posting Snapchats of himself fishing on his “vacation” and videos of himself in a car packed with what appeared to be all of the stuff he cleaned out of his dorm room and locker in the backseat, redshirt-junior guard Jordan Brangers tweeted a video from inside Diddle Arena.

The one-minute video showed Brangers displaying some tight dribbling skills and swift cuts to the basket in between a deep jump shot and finishing dunk.

After Robinson was granted his release, redshirt-junior guard and University of Buffalo transfer Lamonte Bearden tweeted about getting back to March Madness. Robinson’s Snapchat of himself watching cartoons at 3 a.m. likely drew more attention.

The idea this WKU team is severely less-talented or less-attention worthy without Robinson is odd. In any other off-season, the prospects of a starting backcourt comprised of Bearden and Brangers would have WKU fans itching to start the season in August, and that’s before mentioning the rest of the roster.

The third guard, Darius Thompson, spent his past three March’s in the NCAA Tournament at Virginia. A former Syracuse commit, Moustapha Diagne, joins a player who spent last year playing under Bill Self (Dwight Coleby) in the Hilltoppers’ frontcourt.

Assuming Josh Anderson completes his academic requirements soon, as he is expected to, the highest ranked recruit in WKU history is still going to arrive on campus (Anderson is a 4-star recruit and is ranked no. 78 overall by ESPN).

Kentucky’s reigning Mr. Basketball winner Taveion Hollingsworth and another Kentucky high school star Jake Ohmer are joining the roster as well.

Lone-returning senior forward Justin Johnson can’t be forgotten either.

That’s a deep lineup with more talent than what usually appears on a preseason roster at WKU.

The Mitchell Robinson saga has ended, and the drama series won’t be renewed for another season—at least not in Bowling Green.

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