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Michigan marksman Duncan Robinson has taken big jump from D-III

Taysean Scott remembers when Duncan Robinson joined the team at Williams College two years ago. Scott called his parents back in Baltimore and told them about the 6-foot-8 forward from New Hampshire.

"I had worked out with him a few times and he was one of the best shooters I had ever seen — a pure jump-shooter," Scott, a junior who also plays on the football team at the Division III school, said this week.

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Considering that Scott played in the backcourt at McDonogh at the same time Villanova's Phil Booth Jr. and Ohio State's Kameron Williams were playing for rival Mount Saint Joseph, that is saying a lot.

In his only season at Williams, Robinson averaged 17.1 points per game and led the Ephs to the Division III national championship game. Robinson then contacted "eight or nine" Division I teams to see if there was any interest and heard from a handful.

"At the end of the day, it really came down to Michigan, Davidson or returning to Williams," Robinson said this week.

The departure of Williams coach Mike Maker, a former Division I assistant at West Virginia under Michigan coach John Beilein, made Robinson's decision even easier.

Though Maker didn't get personally involved in Robinson's recruiting process with Michigan, Robinson said the coach "endorsed me and told Coach Beilein that I could play at that level."

Robinson has made his former college coach look pretty smart. Going into Tuesday night's game against No. 3 Maryland at Michigan, Robinson was leading the Big Ten Conference and was second in the country in 3-point shooting at 55.7 percent.

Beilein said last week that he wouldn't have offered Robinson a scholarship "if we didn't think he could play." Still, Robinson's quick transition from Division III to top-tier Division I has taken Beilein by surprise.

"I don't think anyone in their right mind would say he'd come in and immediately play at the level he's playing at right now," Beilein said. "I thought in time this is where he could get to, not in his first 15 games to do what he's doing. But he's a smart kid, he's played college basketball before, albeit Division III.

"I'm not saying that I'm smarter than anybody else, but I've coached at the Division II and Division III level and there's really good players that could play at any Division I school. They just fell through the cracks. He's one of those guys."

Part of the reason for Robinson being overlooked coming out of high school was the fact that he was just 5-6 as a freshman at The Governor's Academy, a boarding school in Byfield, Mass.

Though he played on a well-known Amateur Athletic Union team in New England that produced players such as Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton, Robinson sustained a back injury during a key recruiting summer before his senior year. He wound up taking a prep year at Exeter Academy, which in recent years has produced a number of professional athletes along with the more typically distinguished graduates such as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Maryland guard Varun Ram, who started his college career at Division III Trinity, which played in the same league as Williams, is intrigued by what Robinson has done this season.

"I think people a lot of times underestimate the skill level of Division III basketball, especially teams like Williams that are always among the best in the country," Ram said.

Robinson made an immediate impression on his new teammates while sitting out last season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. During a practice drill in which a player is asked to make as many 3-pointers in a five-minute period as he can, Robinson nailed 82 of 89, breaking the record of former Michigan star Nik Stauskas, now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA.

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As much confidence as the practices and pickup games he played in last season gave Robinson, the biggest boost came earlier this season.

"It's very different from getting that game validation," he said. "I guess when I really started to get some confidence was at the beginning of this year and having some success in games."

After going scoreless in 15 minutes of Michigan's season opener against Northern Michigan, Robinson made all six shots he took — five of them 3-pointers — three days later in 18 minutes against Elon.

"That was a huge confidence boost," he said.

Struggling for a few games, including shooting 1-for- 8 in a 14-point loss to then-No. 18 Connecticut, Robinson started to find his comfort zone. Over a five-game stretch that included games against Texas, North Carolina State and then-No. 19 SMU, Robinson made 26 of 42 field-goal attempts, including 22 of 35 3-pointers.

With Wolverines star Caris Levert, the team's leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, out the past two games with a lower leg injury, Robinson has become a player opposing coaches and teams gear up to stop. Robinson has shot 3- 3-of-8 from the field in each of the past two games.

Against Purdue on Jan. 7, Robinson didn't appear to be looking for his shot or able to free himself from the tight defense being played by Raphael Davis, the Big Ten's reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

"I definitely needed to be more aggressive in that game," said Robinson, who is averaging 11.8 points, second on the team. "That's something I've talked about a lot with my coaches and they've talked to me about. It's disappointing because we had a chance to win the game."

No matter what Robinson does the rest of the season, his former teammates at Williams will be watching on television, following on the Internet and cheering him on.

"I'm really excited for him," Scott said. "He was a really good player and for him to come to Williams was really a blessing. It was awesome to have him here. It was a big decision for him to leave and Coach Maker was leaving too. There was no disappointment, he was moving on to bigger and better things."

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