Multiple members of the recruiting class of 2017 surprised the college basketball world with their school selections. None more so than Mitchell Robinson, the five-star center ranked in everyone’s top 10 who opted to sign with Rick Stansbury and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Now, less than a month before the start of the 2017-18 school year, Robinson has left the WKU campus and taken all of his belongings with him. So far there has been no indication that he plans on returning.
Western Kentucky freshman Mitchell Robinson has left campus, source told ESPN. Will be interesting to see if he is persuaded to return.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 28, 2017
Before speculating on what the future may or may not hold for Mitchell, let’s go back and look at how we ended up at this bizarre spot in the first place.
Despite modest returns on the court as a coach, Stansbury has long been known as a skilled recruiter. He brought great talent to Mississippi State during his 22 years as the head coach there, and was the driving force behind the top-five 2015 recruiting class at Texas A&M when he was serving as an assistant in College Station.
Stansbury had also laid the foundation for a bright future for the Aggies, receiving a commitment from Robinson in Oct. 2015 when the big man was just a four-star recruit. That changed months later when Stansbury was offered the head coaching gig at Western Kentucky. Robinson quickly decommitted from Texas A&M, and soon after Stansbury hired Robinson’s godfather, former North Carolina star Shammond Williams, to his coaching staff. The table was set.
On Nov. 15, 2016, Robinson officially signed his letter of intent to play at Western Kentucky. The moment was supposed to mark the conclusion of an overly dramatic recruitment. It did not.
Twelve days later, Robinson made national headlines by tweeting that he was decommitting from Western Kentucky and exploring his options. The tweet was almost immediately deleted and Robinson quickly claimed that his account had been hacked by a friend.
Robinson’s future at Western Kentucky was again called into question July 3 when Williams abruptly resigned from his position with the team. Hilltopper fans were on pins and needles until five days later when Robinson’s mother confirmed to ESPN her son was still planning on playing for WKU in 2017-18.
Fast forward to the end of the month and it now seems more likely than not that Robinson will be spending his first year out of high school somewhere other than Bowling Green, KY. If that is indeed the case, then the talented 7-footer has two options: Convince the school to release him from his NLI so he can play for another college this season, or play overseas and then throw his name into the 2018 NBA Draft. The second would seem more likely than the first.
It’s not easy for the non-bluebloods in college basketball to bring in high-profile recruits without also bringing in high-profile drama. Stansbury and Western Kentucky are currently living with that reality.