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Glenn Robinson III seizes chance to jump-start career with Pacers

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — In his two years at Michigan, Glenn Robinson III never seemed to get into a good groove.

Because of injuries, he often played out of position out of necessity, straying away from his natural small-forward spot and guarding bigger forwards. In UM coach John Beilein's free-flowing offense, he was a mismatch for opposing power forwards but held his own in rebounding on the defensive end.

When Robinson decided to leave after helping the Wolverines to the championship game in 2013 and the Elite Eight in '14, he wasn't sure what the future held in the pro draft, but he was following in his father's footsteps to the NBA.

"I don't think I had all the opportunities to show what I can really do," Robinson said at his announcement press conference in April 2014. "That's going to be my thing to prove to (NBA teams) and take that to the next level."

Robinson, a 6-foot-7 athletic phenom, fell to the second round of the draft, with many teams doubting whether his skills could translate to the NBA. A superior leaper and dunker, he hadn't fully established his jump shot, playing a secondary offensive role on a Michigan roster that ended up with as many eventual pro players as reserves.

After being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves, he endured a tough rookie season and was waived after seeing action in only 25 games, averaging 1.2 points and 0.6 rebounds. He was picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers and played in only 10 games, but averaged 9 points and 3.3 rebounds in the final three contests.

Following an offseason of uncertainty, including playing in the summer league with the Atlanta Hawks, Robinson may have found his break — from Larry Bird.

Bird, the Pacers team president, offered Robinson the security of a three-year contract and the opportunity to grow with a young franchise. With that came the chance to return to his home state of Indiana, about a three hours' drive from St. John, where he starred at Lake Central High School.

"It gives you a little more confidence a whole different feel with friends and family," Robinson said in the preseason. "To come home to the state of Indiana is cool."

Pacers coach Frank Vogel has been impressed with Robinson, who is battling a shoulder injury and has missed the first three games of the season, ahead of Tuesday's matchup against Pistons at The Palace.

Vogel noted that Robinson has improved on his 3-point shooting and is a willing understudy to some of the vets on the roster, including Paul George.

"Tremendous athleticism, great attitude, great spirit," Vogel said of Robinson. "He's willing to pick things up and can learn quickly. He's really improved his shooting and he's got a lot of upside and potential.

"He's got to be able to spread the floor but his midrange game is important too."

Robinson said that he's been working in the offseason with a new shooting coach and trying to enhance his defense.

From his days at Michigan, Beilein's system helped prepare him for the NBA schemes and styles, which has aided him as he's hopped around from team to team.

"Just the way Beilein does things and structures each practice each day helped me for a professional level," Robinson said. "I know how to get my work done, watch film and evaluate myself. (Michigan) worked everything to that professional level.

"I know how to play in a system and a lot of guys just go out and play. Whether it's cutting, running the floor or spacing — that translates well to the NBA."