Division III transfer Duncan Robinson picks Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt

Duncan Robinson is headed to Michigan. The 6-foot-8 wing forward pledged to John Beilein today after his official visit to Michigan.

Robinson will begin his rare, almost unheard of, transition from Division III to Division I basketball this fall as he enrolls at Michigan. The sharpshooting wing forward will have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but will have three years of eligibility remaining when he’s eligible in 2015-16.

“It’s kind of a dream come true that (Michigan) even reached out to me in the first place,” Robinson said last week. “It’s an incredible school academically and obviously athletically as well.”

Robinson averaged 17 points and seven rebounds per game last season at Williams, leading the Ephs to the National Championship game where they lost on an eventual buzzer beater. He chose Michigan on his visit to Ann Arbor and also took a visit to Davidson over the weekend.

More on Robinson including rankings, background story, scouting reports and video after the jump.

By the Numbers

Robinson’s Division III statistics are impressive, but attempting to adjust them for Division I competition is difficult. He averaged 17.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 45% from three, 67% from two and 88% at the free throw line. In league play he was even more efficient, averaging 19 points per game while shooting 53% from three and a ridiculous 78% inside the arc.

Offers and Interest

Robinson didn’t have a Division I offer when he committed to Williams College before his fifth year at Phillips Exeter, a Class A NEPSAC prep school. He did have interest from Ivy and Patriot League schools and a Division II offer at Merrimack College. Had he waited to commit until after the season at Exeter, Division I offers might have been threre. Instead, he opted to make an early pledge to Williams, the top liberal arts college in the country..

One year later, Williams has interest and offers from Michigan, Davidson, Marist and a collection of ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic 10, Ivy League, Patriot League and American East teams including Creighton.  While Michigan ended up as the best fit for Robinson, the Wolverines weren’t the only school willing to take a chance on his game.


Watch footage from Robinson’s freshman year at Williams, primarily from the Division III Final Four:


Robinson’s emergence came from a perfect storm of events this summer. His coach at Williams, Mike Maker, was hired by Marist and that gave Robinson reason to look around. Marist lacked the academic chops for Robinson, but Maker (a former Beilein assistant coach at West Virginia) helped Robinson find some suitable landing spots. Michigan was an obvious fit given Maker’s relationship with Beilein and the fact that Williams ran a similar offense.

Maker’s endorsement to Beilein probably sounded something like what he told the media during the Division III tournament.

“I can’t imagine where (Robinson)’s going to be a year from now, or two years from now,” he said in March. “You’re not gonna recognize him.”

Robinson continued to grow during his time at Williams, and reported in a phone conversation last week that he’s now 6-foot-8, and was selected as the National Freshman of the Year and a Fourth Team All-American according to D3Hoops.com. He improved as the season wore on and was critical in leading Williams to the Division III National Championship, where the Ephs fell just short.


Robinson is known most for his shooting ability, but he’s also a fairly diverse scorer. He’s an average athlete at the Division III level which means that he’s likely a below-average athlete at the high-major level.

“I really like to shoot, that’s one thing,” Robinson told UM Hoops. “And I like to take pride in the fact that I’m not just one of those shooters that just kinds of jacks shots. I think I take good shots and I really feel like I work for the best shot and working within a system is when I play my best.”

Out of high school, New England Recruiting Report was already realizing that people might have missed out on Robinson’s ability.

A year ago he was a relative unknown coming out of Governor’s Academy.  One year, two inches, and 20 pounds of muscle later now he’s a NEPSAC finals MVP and a huge steal for Williams College.  While the masses are wondering how a sharp-shooting six-foot-seven forward could have slipped through the scholarship cracks, the reality is that he jumped through, spurning scholarship offers for the top ranked liberal arts school and one of the most storied Division III basketball programs in the country.

Nothing But NESCAC provided us with the sort of detailed scouting report on Robinson’s freshman year at Williams that you could only get from an outlet that covers the NESCAC relentlessly.

Robinson just submitted the greatest freshman year possibly ever in the NESCAC and definitely the best of the last 15 years. The NESCAC is also considered one of, if not the best Division 3 basketball conference in the country with a team more often than not reaching the Final Four of the NCAAs. Yet Robinson was clearly a great player from the moment he stepped on the floor. The one trait that undoubtedly made him special was his shooting ability. He consistently flashed NBA range and was comfortable in both catch and shoot situations or pulling up off of a pick and roll. On the season he hit 2.5 threes per game at a 45% rate. While he didn’t have the quickest release, Robinson was comfortable shooting with a hand in his face in large part because his size and length enabled him to shoot over many NESCAC defenders. The other offensive parts of his game are not as strong, but he was still incredibly efficient. Robinson did not go the hoop all that much and only shot 2.8 free throws per game. He does not have great explosiveness to leap up or past defenders, but relied on using angles and again his exceptional length to finish in congested areas. Because he wasn’t consistently driving his assist numbers don’t jump out at you.

The defensive and rebounding parts of his game are really where Robinson will need to work on if he wants to be a contributor at Michigan. He currently lacks both the lateral quickness and strength in order to consistently stay in front of quicker shorter defenders who could use their leverage against him. Rebounding he used his size to average 6.5 rebounds per game, but he wasn’t very active on the offensive glass or ever really dominated in the paint. His length (I know I’ve mentioned it a lot, but that’s because it was truly unique at the Division 3 level) enabled him to average more than a steal and block per game. Williams ran a mixture of man and zone throughout the season and Robinson was by no means a defensive stopper. He played well within the scheme, but didn’t change games with his defense.

Projecting him at a Division 1 level is very hard for us to do having only seen him at a Division 3 level. The obvious Michigan comparison is Nik Stauskas considering their similar body types, shooting ability, and even the fact that they played in the same high school league (where incidentally I played against both of them as well). Robinson and Stauskas actually graduated from high school the same year, but because Robinson took a post-graduate year at Phillips Exeter and will have to redshirt next year, he will enter 2015 as only a sophomore while Stauskas will be starting his second year in the NBA.

Has a Division III to Division I transfer happened before?

Not often, especially at this level. But there are two recent examples in Matt Hart and Varun Ram. Matt Hart led Hamilton in scoring before transferring to George Washington as a walk on and Varun Ram left Trinity to walk on at Maryland and earned a scholarship, the 5-9 point guard played in 16 games last season.

Bottom Line

His skillset obviously fits at Michigan. He’s played a Beilein-style offense, he can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor and he filled up the stat sheet last season. But jumping from Division III to Division I is not going to be easy. It took extenuating circumstances for Robinson to end up in Ann Arbor and it might take a similar occurrence for him to emerge as a go-to scorer.

Robinson’s ceiling will depend on his ability to improve his strength and athleticism over the next year. Jon Sanderson’s wizardry has been well documented and will be tested with Robinson’s development. He’s never going to be a high flyer or defensive stopper, but if Robinson can develop into an average Big Ten athlete, he clearly has the skill elements of his game to make an impact.

“I’m excited about (having to sit out a year), one thing I definitely take pride is in that I consider myself a hard worker. I’m really excited for this year,” Robinson said last week. “Obviously at a school like Michigan you have all the resources in the world so there are no more excuses for me if I do go there.”

This site is supported by donations

Like what you see? Click the button below to donate and access exclusive content.

  • DingoBlue

    Not surprising, but now it’s confirmed. Welcome Duncan!

    I personally would see him as more of a 3 who could play the 2 at times, but from what I’ve read, the coaches want him as a guard. If so, I would definitely say this would adversely impact Coleman, Davis, and possibly even Dozier.

    • I think his versatility really stands out… He can play a number of positions. I don’t think he would really scare anyone away, but that’s just me. Coleman and Davis are both trending away from Michigan for a variety of reasons…Dozier is visiting, so they at least have a chance.

      • DingoBlue

        I agree I think again he’s another versatile player (could play 2 through 4 on offense). Also agree that a DIII transfer shouldn’t seem to scare off a top 50 recruit in 2015 at a position of need, but I’m not one of those recruits.

        I’d also venture that since Robinson at this point doesn’t seem like an early exit candidate, that only one of Leaf/Towns would be likely to commit at this point. Whereas previously, I think Michigan could have taken both.

        Regardless, looking forward to seeing him suit up in the Maize and Blue!

      • gobluemd16

        Just wondering, what are you hearing that makes you think Coleman is trending away from Michigan? Personally, the other schools in his top 5 really don’t compare..

    • geoffclarke

      In my humble opinion, getting another elite outside shooter is a team need and should HELP in the pitch to a player like Dozier, who is a creator and has PG instincts, not scare him off. To say nothing of the big overall talent gap between the two. At this point, I really hope that they can get Dozier, but if they don’t, perhaps my vision of Chatman going from a freshman 4 to a sophomore 2 may come to fruition.

  • Chris

    So does he travel with the team to Italy?

    • Nope. Duncan won’t be going to Italy and he won’t be on campus until transfer orientation at the end of August.

  • Northern Blue

    Good Pickup! Need to keep shooters coming in, and Coleman not being near as likely as once thought makes this a great pickup.

  • jblair52

    can’t go wrong with a 6’8″ version of Spike

  • DingoBlue

    Nit Pick: there seems to be a small typo in the first sentence in “By The Numbers”

  • Wayman Britt

    Now don’t take this the wrong way, Duncan may turn out to be a good player, but this will put pressure on UM’s 2016 class. If UM wants to continue to make final fours and elite eights, you need at least two NBA players on your roster. So UM will need to get NBA players in the 2016 class for future seasons. Of course Duncan could become an NBA player, but if you truly want to be an elite team you need some NBA players. The good thing is that there are some great big time players in 2016 who are looking at UM. UM just needs them to pick the Wolverines.

    • GTFOmycourt

      Wayman Britt, I do not think Duncan is an nba level talent either, however, I question your fear that we are somehow lacking in elite talent. Out of curiosity, would you feel more comfortable if Maar and Wilson were top 25 recruits? It seems obvious to me that those two were underrated. MAAR in particular seems insanely underrated.

  • Burke_Does_Work

    To say that I am less than thrilled would be an understatement. I do not claim to be a basketball expert in any way, nor do I believe that I know what’s better for the team than John Beilein and Co., but this pickup really has me puzzled. I just don’t see how a Division III player will be able to translate to a high major D1 program. Yeah he played exceptionally last year as a freshman, but how good is the competition? I’d venture to guess that Max Bielfeldt could put up similar numbers in the league that Duncan just left and that’s saying something. Once again, I’m no expert and could easily be wrong (hell, hope I’m wrong because we can use all the help we can get), but at our current state, we need to preserve all the scholarships we have and save them for the big fish like Dozier, Ali, and Coleman who are program changers. We may not land any of those players (although we have a decent shot), but if we don’t have any scholarships available for them, that much is already certain.

    • GTFOmycourt

      Here is a list of some program changers: Novak, Morris, Burke, Stauskas, Caris Levert and ???? None of these players were highly recruited or thought of as program changers prior to moving the program forward and yet they did.

      • Burke_Does_Work

        Comparing Burke LeVert, Stauskas, Morris, and even Novak to a DIII player when it comes to how highly they were recruited out of high school is foolish. And if I remember correctly, Nik Stauskas was offered by Kansas, and if that isn’t considered a high-tier offer, I don’t know what is.

        • GTFOmycourt

          Actually, I think Duncan will be a role player coming off the bench for limited minutes for his tenure. However, he will be surrounded by talent that will be overachieving (insanely compared to their rankings). I question the underlying premise that most of the pieces of the puzzle are not already there for the next few years. Levert will go to the NBA that gives us two scholarships to go with a very talented although underrated players like MAAR and Wilson. You need some solid role players too. Like I asked Waymann Britt below: Would you feel more comfortable if MAAR and Wilson were 5 star recruits?

          • Wayman Britt

            I agree 100% that you need role players and MAAR, Dawkins & Duncan fit that mark. I am glad they are on the team, but if final fours is your goal you need at least two NBA players. Because of ship limits, UM has a little more pressure to make sure the 2016 class has a couple of highly, highly talented commits.

          • John Billington

            The highly talented, UConn has won three national titles since 2004 with only 9 top 100 players out of high school in the same time Kentucky has had 29 top 100 and has won 1 national title. That said to me it’s the coaching and the system more than the highly talented.

          • GTFOmycourt

            I would add that there is not necessarily a correlation between “outside the top 100” and “not talented”. To Waymann Britt, I haven’t seen enough of Dawkins to have an opinion but I don’t think MAAR will prove to be a role player at all. He is a “gamer” with very elite agility–a potential star.

          • John Billington

            Yes I agree but to the reply Michigan needed to go after the highly highly talented players is not necessarily on the agenda for John Beilein. I think he looks at talent differently than those rating high school players. Beilein said in the very beginning of his tenure at Michigan that he’ll not waste scholarships simply to bring in numbers, the players will fit the teams needs.

        • GentlemanScholar

          I think “foolish” is a little harsh and somewhat a threat. Caris was an unranked 3-star recruit who had offers from Dayton and Ohio, but imagine if he had committed as early as Duncan. Do you believe that Duncan wouldn’t have had some D1 offers at the level of Ohio? Additionally, Novak’s only other offer was Valpo. So I think you can compare at least Levert and Novak. the other three, however, were 4-star recruits with offers from power conference schools.

        • swinawer

          Foolish, indeed. Robinson was more highly recruited than Novak coming out of HS and didn’t have to go DIII. But he’s not coming out of HS anymore and that’s not relevant. He has obviously exceeded his expectations and has grown 2″. Stauskas was a 4* only because he spent an extra year in prep school. McGary’s ranking shot up after doing the same. If Robinson’s year in DIII was treated like a year in prep school, he would be ranked by the scouting services and people wouldn’t be freaking out. Instead we’re getting a kid that cared more about his education than getting higher profile offers. I’m not sure what more Beilein could have done to make me respect his evaluations, so I’m not going to question him now.

          • To be fair, Robinson went to prep school also.

          • swinawer

            Understood, but Stauskas and McGary stayed for a second year of prep school. Robinson could have too.

      • In the interest of being fair here, Stauskas and Morris both were pretty highly touted. Stauskas was a top-100 player and Morris was too.

  • 90 M Varsity

    If Spike can score 17 in a half of the National Championship game…..I think lots of conventional wisdom goes out the window. This dude can play. And apparently he can really shoot it. 5 years ago I was Beilein’s biggest critic. He flipped me years ago. I’m all for this player….. Welcome….

  • Indiana_Matt

    It seems to me that Beilein would like to stop coaching the youngest team in America every year. It would be foolish to say the staff doesn’t want 5 star guys. But could it be that coach is prioritizing system guys right now. I feel like this class has a strong group of players that, except for Chatman, are going to be 4 year guys. This year we make the tournament. Levert will become a pro. Next year sweet 16. Then I think that we’ll add some freshman superstar power (NBA talent) from the 2016 HS class and we’ll be a conference champ and national champ team in 2017. That is all for my crazy logic and predictions!

    • Indiana_Matt

      Sorry… More predictions. We win the 2018 national title also. Then Coach Beilein retires and Coach Jordan takes over as head coach. My crystal ball is fuzzy beyond that.

  • AADave

    While I’m not a big fan of transfers, I really like this pick-up. I do think the NCAA’s transfer rules are an unethical abuse of power. Just to be fair, why don’t they make coaches sit out a year after transferring? If the primary concern is what’s best for student-athletes, why penalize them by making them sit out a year?

    Anyway, Robinson looks like a very underrated high-ceiling player. He’s got great size at 6’8″, can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket and is an elite outside shooter.

    I think Beilein is doing a great job stockpiling players with great potential but who are likely to stay a full four years. Robinson, Dawkins, MAAR, DJ Wilson, Doyle and Donnal all fit the bill. While earlier players like Novak and Douglas were solid role players, they were more limited and had less potential than this group.

    I do think it’s still important to focus on highly rated recruits and get at least 1-2 elite players in each class in order to stay near the top. So I hope we still get one of our top targets for 2015 (Brunson, Davis, Coleman or another emerging target). I think an elite combo or PG would be huge since Walton has the potential for leaving early and we’re also likely losing our other top playmaker/ballhandler in Levert after this year. But we’ll probably be Ok no matter what. Spike is a gamer and could be a fine starting PG if necessary.

    As for available scholarships going forward, I suspect we’ll have more than anticipated. We still have 2 available for 2015 if Levert goes pro as expected. And with the potential of Chatman, Irvin and Walton leaving early (and Spike graduating), we will quite possibly have 4 more open slots for 2016. They may even leave earlier.

  • Todd K

    I am impressed by the video in the post. His game reminds the most of Stauskas, as he gets his jumper off quickly, and is able to score by attacking the basket. This is video from his freshman year, which makes it that much more remarkable. What will he look like once he puts on the Michigan uniform after one year off? My guess is that his goal is to make the NBA, and that he feels that transferring to play under JB in a top program gives him a shot at that goal. Otherwise, he would just stay at Williams, the top-ranked liberal arts college in the country.