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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Keegan

Column: Russell Robinson recalls guarding Stephen Curry

Kansas' Russell Robinson defends Davidson's Stephen Curry on Sunday, March 30, 2008 in Detroit, Mich.

Kansas' Russell Robinson defends Davidson's Stephen Curry on Sunday, March 30, 2008 in Detroit, Mich.

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He won’t hear “from New York! New York!” during the pregame introductions today because Russell Robinson comes off the bench for Stelmet Zielona Gora, which can clinch the Polish League championship with a victory in Game 6.

The Polish National team’s starting backcourt also starts for Stelmet, ahead of Russell.

“I’m just doing my job, whenever they need, to help the team win,” Robinson said by phone from Poland.

Of course he is. That’s who he is. Robinson averages 9.8 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game for Stelmet ZG, which holds a 3-2 advantage in its best-of-seven series vs. PGE Turow.

“If we can win, this will be my first championship since KU,” Robinson said.

I reached out to Robinson to discuss a specific aspect of one game during that 2008 championship run. How, I asked Robinson, did the Jayhawks prevent Stephen Curry, reigning NBA MVP and one of two central figures in the NBA Finals, from beating them? How did they defend him?

Curry scored 25 points in KU’s 59-57 victory vs. Davidson, but he needed 25 shots to make nine field goals. He made just four of 16 three-point shots, a testament to Kansas not giving him great looks.

“You try to stay as close to him as you can,” Robinson said. “He was coming off a lot of screens, and his teammates were really, really trying to get him open. We had a good team, and he had to play some defense, too. That might have tired him out.”

Robinson opened the game checking Curry, and, 10 minutes into the night, the Davidson guard had missed his first five shots and was scoreless.

How did Robinson do it?

“Just staying real close to him and forcing him to take some tough shots,” Robinson said. “And we had some big players, Sasha (Kaun) and Darnell (Jackson) to hedge screens. It wasn’t a cake walk for him.”

Throughout the night, Robinson recalled, a few different players guarded Curry.

“I started out on him, and I did a pretty good job of not letting him get in rhythm,” Robinson said. “Toward the end, B. (Brandon) Rush was guarding him to give him a different look. I think Mario (Chalmers) checked him a little. He didn’t get off to a good start, and we bought ourselves some time. That helped us, I think.”

As is always the case when Kansas slows down the opponent’s top scorer, it was a team effort. Still, nobody played a bigger part than Russell in Curry’s off night.

“I don’t think his ball-handling was anywhere close to what it is now,” Robinson said. “It’s amazing. Amazing.”

On that March 30 night seven years ago, so too was the opponent Davidson and five other schools faced in the NCAA tournament.

“I loved our defense,” said Robinson, who will be in Lawrence on June 18 for the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic charity basketball game at Free State High. “I loved our transition. I loved the chemistry. The locker room was the best part. That was the best locker room I ever had. We had guys 1 through 17 pulling for each other. When that’s happening, it’s kind of hard to have a down day, kind of hard not to play as well as we did.”

Comments

Tony Bandle 7 years, 2 months ago

I remember that last play like it was just last night. All I could think of was as I yelled at my TV screen "don't let that little guy put up a three pointer, just don't"!!! And the Hawks didn't. :)

Elias Dunlavy 7 years, 2 months ago

Russ Rob had the heart of a Lion. I will always appreciate his role in helping us win a NC

Danny Hernandez 7 years, 2 months ago

One afternoon while walking home on west 38th street here in the city, I walked towards who I thought was Russell with his mom and sister?? and as soon as I passed him, I said to myself that's Russell Robinson. Of course I ran back to him, introduced myself as a Kansas Jayhawk fan and congratulated him for giving me great memories plus the championship. He was all class that afternoon and has always been one of my favorite players! He didn't disappoint.

Freedman Moor 7 years, 2 months ago

Henry, Selby, Wiggins, Embiid, Oubre, and Alexander. I look at all the blue chip one-and-done athletes to come and go at KU and none have made nearly the impact that guys like Robinson, Jackson, Releford, Withey, Young did who became metaphors for toughness, heart, tenacity, fortitude, and energy.

Not only do I still miss these guys, I missed them as soon as I thought about them leaving KU.

Brian Skelly 7 years, 2 months ago

One of my favorite things about Robinson was how much he grew up not only as a player but as a person.    People might forget,  but he wasnt getting much playing time early and was incredibly homesick.    He was ready to transfer.    If im correct,  he really had to be talked out of it.    
He stuck it out,   got his ring,  and impressively enough is still playing pro ball.    Kudos for him.    And a lot of that his im understanding his place and role on the teams he's played for.    It wasnt always that way,   he figured it out,  and knew he could and would do what was needed for the team.   Probably why he's still playing.
Personally,   Darnell Jackson was my favorite guy from that group.    The blue collar grinder who made the more talented guys on those teams jobs a lot easier.   But no question Robinson's demeanor and leadership helped those guys out.     Good to see he's still playing.

Harlan Hobbs 7 years, 2 months ago

Good memory, Brian. You are exactly right. I don't recall who his mentor was in New York (possibly his high school coach), but I do remember the mentor telling Russell that he needed to show his grit and stick it out at KU. We all can be thankful that he did.

The 2008 team was of course a special one, and it is nice to read Russell's comments about the chemistry in the locker room. That is always such a huge factor.

Dave Coen 7 years, 2 months ago

If my memory is correct, Coach Self considers Russell Robinson either the MVP or team leader of the 2008 National Championship team. He certainly is a class act and a Jayhawk legend.

John Randall 7 years, 1 month ago

On that team, no one is going to pick RusRob as MVP, simply because of stats. He certainly was a team leader, and the depth (all the way down to Sherron) kept it from becoming burdensome. I do remember, though, in games that were tight, Russell finished more of them than anyone else.

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