On April 20, Anthony Robinson II became the eighth prospect in the 2023 class to pick up an offer from Missouri’s newly assembled coaching staff. And while the Tigers’ recruiting board was coming together, the Florida High point guard was a logical addition: associate head coach Charlton Young had recruited him while on staff at nearby Florida State.
“They love long and athletic guys, and Ant fits that bill,” said Florida High coach Charlie Ward. “He’s 6-3 with almost a 6-7 wingspan. He’s super-competitive. CY’s always liked him, and that’s never changed. When he made the jump, he was excited to keep recruiting him.”
Importing experienced ball-handlers was a priority this spring, met by adding Clemson transfer Nick Honor and JUCO product Sean East II. While each has an extra season of eligibility stemming from the pandemic, there’s no guarantee the same need won’t arise. So, finding a long-term solution made sense as coach Dennis Gates assembled his first proper recruiting class.
And should a veteran like Honor stick around, all the better. That possibility was also a facet of the developmental plan laid out for Robinson on an official visit in June. “Just coming in and learning behind Nick,” Robinson said. “That was the path for Year 1, and just taking what I learn and applying that for the next year.”
Robinson’s recruiting ranking is respectable at No. 189 in the 247 Sports composite index. Still, July’s evaluation periods offered plenty of hints to his upside. If not for the rough shooting at Peach Jam, Robinson, who averaged 10.8 points and 2.7 rebounds on Nike’s grassroots circuit, might have seen his stock boosted in the eyes of evaluators.
“He’s one of the biggest sleepers in this class,” said James Kang, an assistant coach with the Georgia Stars. “He’s shown consistent production. Mizzou got a steal when he committed, and that’s a credit to coach Gates and coach CY. People are going to look back in a couple of years and say, “Dang, I can’t believe we missed out on this kid.”
With insights from Ward, Kang, and ample film, let’s explore what makes up Robinson’s game.
Ward knows players crave freedom on the offensive end of the floor and don’t want to be “bogged down” in intricate sets. Instead, he relies on a “concepts-based” approach, picking from a buffet of college and NBA actions and utilizes multiple ball-handlers to make the system hum.
Call up film, and you can see familiar bits and pieces: a chase action, Spain pick-and-rolls, and hammer actions on the weak side of the floor.
The contours of the system remained the same no matter which Seminole was at the controls: Robinson, Tre Donaldson, or TJ Baker. Yet the bulks of the duties rested with Donaldson, a two-sport star, top-150 prospect in basketball, and an Auburn recruit. Few would raise hackles, either. In early March, Florida High claimed a Class 3A state title, the school’s first in nearly six decades.
The 67-66 victory over Riviera Prep also marked a culmination of a three-year partnership between Donaldson and Robinson, who averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Often, Robinson operated as a combo guard, one who evolved from a freshman hellbent on attacking the cup to a potent mid-range operator as a junior.
“We sat him down and encouraged him to make simple changes,” Ward said. “Get a one-dribble and two-dribble pull-up, which he’s really good at now.”
The loose constraints of Ward’s system produced a diverse shot selection for Robinson. However, the point of departure where he’s most comfortable is the right slot. Whether it’s an isolation touch or ball screen, the geometry is favorable, allowing Robinson to attack the elbow or nail with his left hand. By contrast, touches at the top of the key enable him to turn the corner and play downhill.
Robinson said pull-ups have always been part of his repertoire. Deploying them, however, hinged on maturation. “With getting bigger and stronger, it made me feel more confident getting to them and shooting over guys,” Robinson said.
Usually, Robinson’s role toggled based upon whether he played as an off-ball combo guard on the second side of the floor or initiated the offense when Donaldson needed a breather. As that second-side threat, he hunted scoring chances. Now, with Donaldson gone, Ward will need him to fuse them.
“He has to be more aggressive at certain times,” Ward said. “He’s learning and embracing that.”
It’s also why Ward was eager for his soon-to-be senior to sign on with the Georgia Stars, an Atlanta mainstay and member of Nike’s EYBL circuit, for the grassroots season. This time a year ago, Stars coaches for the Atlanta-based program were impressed by what they saw from Robinson, who had suited up for Miami-based Nightrydas’ 16U outfit. They saw his mid-range scoring punch, sound decision-making while playing fast, and tenacity on the defensive end.
If it’s hard to spot the constraints Ward puts on his team, they’re all but invisible with the Stars.
The tempo is blistering. Any player has the freedom to yank down a rebound and kickstart the squad’s transition attack. Runners get wide and bust it, and if you’re ball handling, you better have your head up and be ready to decide within one or two dribbles.
When they flow into a half-court possession, there’s a faint resemblance to dribble-drive motion. The roster doesn’t boast traditional post players. Coen Carr, a top-75 prospect with a sturdy 6-foot-7 frame, is the closest thing to an interior anchor – primarily because of his activity on the glass.
“There’s not really a base offense,” Kang said. “It’s just us trying to be really fluid, get the ball moving, and find the best possible shot.”
Anthony Robinson II | Class of 2023 | Shooting Profile | EYBL
Amorphous? Sure. But that autonomy was a boon for Robinson, who averaged 10.8 points on 19.1 percent usage. Admittedly, shooting 44.2 percent from the floor is pedestrian. But as always, context matters. During Peach Jam, Robinson slumped, hitting just 15 of 56 attempts in six games. Yet over his first 19 games in EYBL play, he hit at a 50.3 percent clip, including 25 of 71 from 3-point range – impressive given that the league uses the NBA arc.
Those struggles contrasted with a stellar stop in Kansas City, where Robinson posted 14.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in six games. “I hit a couple of shots that weekend that I’ve wanted to make in a game,” he recalled. “I was so happy to have it happen going fast and at game speed. I felt like I was under control.”
Factoring in that late-season slippage, Robinson averaged 0.99 points per possession this spring. That makes sense, given his shot selection. Almost half of them came from behind the arc, and on film, you can tell a healthy dose comes playing off the dribble.
That said, the palette Robinson uses is diverse.
Within the Stars’ system, Robinson got carte blanche to attack early in the shot clock. It might be a hang dribble coupled with a jab step. He’ll go between the legs and flow into a crossover to carve out room for a stepback. But they usually start from the spot – the right slot. We know it lets him veer back left, getting into a narrow base with his right foot slightly ahead. That step back also functions as a gather to transfer the ball cleanly to his shot pocket.
A similar strain of top-side isolation chances comes from the ball reversing back to Robinson. Again, his go-to is a between-the-legs dribble – protecting the ball – as he attacks the weaker foot of the defender. Again, putting that man in slight retreat gives him a clean pickup into a compact and smooth shot motion.
Meanwhile, Robinson also benefits from the occasional pick-and-roll, and his use-or-reject decision seemingly hinges on which enables him to – again – work leftward. On these touches, he’ll use what amounts to a relocation dribble. But reading the defender is pivotal. Are they caught on the wrong side, making it easy to reject? Do they lollygag fighting over the top? Or are the lazy recovering back once a blitzing defender does their job.
No matter the circumstances, Robinson feels empowered. “This summer is just faster,” he said. “Anybody can score. … It just gets you into a flow and a mindset. You’re not afraid to attack when you get the ball.”
The trove of clips showcasing Robinson as a slasher is smaller, but those who’ve overseen his development offer ringing endorsements. Yes, Robinson’s build is sinewy, but it comes with a plus-4 wingspan – length that helps him finish when confronted off the rim. In addition, he gets good lift jumping off two feet. And Robinson doesn’t shy away from aerial contact and has enough body control to change release angles while aloft.
“I can still get better at that,” Robinson added, “be more crafty if I have to finish over bigger guys.”
Ward said his lead guard has the requisite finishing moves, but improvement will come as Robinson’s frame fills in. Few prep programs can mimic a college nutrition and lifting program. For now, the focus rests on getting players like Robinson to embrace conditioning work the same way they enjoy pickup or shooting drills.
Kang echoed a similar sentiment. “When he gets to college and into that regimen every day, he’s going to be more confident going to the cup,” he said of Robinson. “Whether it’s finishing off one or two feet, the size and athleticism will be there.”
In the meantime, Robinson can fuse some prudence into his game. Ideally, he’ll improve playing off two feet and flesh out a floater package. Right now, his guile and quickness help him “wiggle around a guy and finish at the basket,” Ward said. That will be harder to manage at the high-major level.
That said, these are natural parts of the developmental process.
The more pressing matter for Ward is encouraging Robinson to be more assertive as a scorer and have him take up the Seminoles’ primary facilitator role. He did it in stints when Donaldson needed a breather last season and got exposure to an increased work rate in the EYBL.
Yet the reads he’s asked to make at Florida High come with a distinction. “I’m coming off pick-and-rolls, and people really try to blitz me,” Robinson said. “It’s just been learning how to read that, get in the gap, and find someone. There are more levels to it.”
Last season, Robinson’s reads tended to be on the weak side of the floor to stationary targets in the slot and corner. At least in the games I watched, the screener would pop as often as they rolled. And instead of a big lurking in the dunker spot, a shooter camps in the strong-side corner. Often, Robinson’s passes yielded spot-ups. What Ward wants is for his guard’s recognition speed to pick up.
“Sometimes, he’ll get to a point where he’s trying to take on everybody,” Ward said. “It’s a matter of him understanding when to be great. You know, give the defense credit when they do their job.”
Anthony Robinson II | Class of 2023 | Ball-Handling | EYBL
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It’s another reason why suiting up for the Stars proved to be a boon. Over 25 games in the EYBL, Robinson averaged 4.6 assists, posted a 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio, and notched a 26.7 assist rate. That passing prowess put him in the same circles as blue-chip prospects like Jeremy Fears Jr., Aden Holloway, and Isaiah Collier.
And yet Robinson’s play in compiling those glittering metrics wasn’t audacious. Ask him about his approach, and you get a testament to subtlety. “Just making the right play,” Robinson said. “I try not to dribble too much. Make the easy reads when I see them.”
Given the Star’s perky tempo, it often means Robinson’s hitting a teammate leaking out. Or he’s having to make a decision within one or two dribbles to fire a pass to the likes of Carr, Jalani Hamilton or RJ Johnson getting wide and sprinting the wings.
Robinson’s also savvy early in possessions. For example, if a defender’s pick-up point is too low, he’ll push the ball to the heart of the paint and pitch the ball back out — hitting a shooter as the defense tries to matchup. He also flashes the ability to make the right read in a side pick-and-roll. And sometimes, he’ll notch several assists with the simplest play of all: reversing the ball.
“He sees the floor very well and knows the game at a high level,” Kang said. “He’s making the correct reads without us really demonstrating or teaching what he needs to do. When the ball is in Ant’s hands, we feel confident he’s going to make the right play.”
Let’s start here: Robinson loves putting the clamps on people.
“When I lock in and sit down, I really use my quickness,” he said. “I think I have good judgment and see where a guy wants to go. When you can really lock someone up as a defender, it’s just fun.”
To Ward, Robinson possesses all the raw materials to be a stellar on-ball defender: anticipation, a quick first slide, and active hands. When fully engaged, there are few better. Yet some imperfections need buffing out. Because Robinson excels at pilfering, his confidence also means taking on too much risk. When a gamble doesn’t pan out, it puts his teammates in a bind.
“We’re working with him to understand he just needs to stay in front and use his length,” Ward said. “He can beat a guy to a spot. On a spin move, he just needs to stay down and stay solid. We’re trying to get him to a point where he knows doing that consistently means the other guy will hand you the ball. You won’t need to reach. You’re already there when they’re trying to make the next play.”
That’s a scary prospect.
As a junior, he averaged 2.6 steals per game – production that only dipped slightly against better competition at the grassroots level. Still, Robinson was tied for 11th in the EYBL for steals, and his 3.7 steal percentage – assuming it carries over to some degree – would rank among the best in the SEC.
But some clean-up work still needs to happen off the ball. Manning the weak side, Robinson’s attention might drift, creating some delayed closeouts. He admits as much, chalking those lapses to a mental break from shouldering his workload on the offensive end. “I just get carried away,” he added. “That’s where I have to improve on the next level.”
Filling out his frame might help defensively, too. There are moments when he gets bumped off too easily on screens, compounded by not getting as skinny as he needs to be while fighting through. However, Ward offers a reasonable explanation. At times, Florida High deploys drop coverage where Robinson’s job is to push the dribbler toward the big. So, what might look like him getting hung up is sometimes part of the protocol.
“He’ll get skinny,” Ward said. “But teams reject [the screen] a lot against us, and you wind up off the ball anyway. We’re constantly teaching our guys how to navigate. There are different ways to make it happen. It’s a process. But on the ball? Ant’s relentless.”