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Mitchell Robinson’s bizarre Western Kentucky exit, explained

The Hilltoppers big man is expected to return after a bizarre exodus from the program earlier this summer.

High School Basketball: 40th Annual McDonald's All-American Games Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Highly-touted freshman center Mitchell Robinson is officially out at Western Kentucky. The 5-star big man has decided to skip college and start training for the 2018 NBA Draft effective immediately.

This is the conclusion in an overwhelmingly strange and murky situation.

Let’s try and break down this entire ordeal.

What exactly happened here?

In late July, Western Kentucky freshman center Mitchell Robinson packed up all of his stuff and went back to his home in Louisiana without telling anyone at WKU. When he didn’t report to a workout the next day, staff members went to his dorm room and discovered that it was empty.

Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury then traveled to New Orleans to meet with both Robinson and his mother. Robinson reportedly expressed that he was having second thoughts about attending WKU, and was wanting to leave before the new summer semester began and before the Hilltoppers team trip to Costa Rica next week.

Stansbury announced that Robinson was suspended indefinitely for leaving campus. The head coach released a statement announcing that Robinson was free to transfer.

“WKU freshman center Mitchell Robinson has been granted his release to transfer from the Hilltopper program,” Stansbury said. “After discussing Mitchell’s future with him Monday evening, we agreed that it would be best for both sides to allow him to move in a different direction. As I’ve said before, Mitchell is a great kid, and we wish him well going forward.”

Robinson visited other schools, then decided to re-enroll at Western Kentucky

Robinson visited Kansas and University of New Orleans while he was away. Ultimately, he decided to re-enroll at Western Kentucky in late August. Stansbury thought he had finally convinced his big catch to stay.

That all changed on September 17.

Robinson now isn’t playing college basketball at all. He’ll train for the 2018 NBA Draft

Robinson told Scout on Sunday night that he’s skipping this season of college basketball to focus on training for the 2018 NBA Draft. Robinson will be working out in Dallas and hopes to become a first round pick in June.

Just how good is Mitchell Robinson?

Very good. The 7-footer is a consensus five-star recruit, a consensus top 10 player in the class of 2017, and a McDonald’s All-American. Both Rivals and Scout had Robinson at No. 8 overall in their final class of 2017 player rankings. It was widely assumed that his first year at Western Kentucky would be his only year at Western Kentucky.

So how did he end up at Western Kentucky anyway?

Robinson committed to Texas A&M in 2015 primarily because Stansbury was serving as an assistant coach for the Aggies at the time. In March of 2016, Stansbury accepted the head coaching job at WKU and quickly hired Shammond Williams, the former North Carolina star who just so happens to be Robinson’s godfather, to be one of his assistants. A commitment from Robinson to play for the Hilltoppers came shortly thereafter. He immediately because the highest-rated recruit ever to sign with Western Kentucky.

So what went wrong?

In early July, Williams resigned abruptly from his position at WKU. This made him the third assistant coach that Stansbury has lost since he arrived in Bowling Green. It also led to widespread speculation that Robinson would also be on the way out. Despite rumors that this was the case, Robinson’s mother informed ESPN five days after Williams’ resignation that her son would be sticking it out and playing for the Hilltoppers.

What were Mitchell Robinson’s options if he left WKU?

That’s was the million dollar question that everyone was trying to answer .

Getting a full release from WKU was only step one for Robinson if he wanted to play college basketball somewhere else in 2017-18. Because he took classes at Western Kentucky and participated in practices with the team, he would also have to receive a waiver from the NCAA in order to play for another Division I team without having to sit out a season. Those waivers are typically reserved for extremely rare circumstances.

Robinson took visits to Kansas, LSU and New Orleans before ultimately deciding to return to Western Kentucky.

If Robinson wasn’t granted that waiver from the NCAA, his options would have been limited. He could have go overseas — although finding a professional home abroad on the fly isn’t the easiest thing to do in the world. He could still transfer to another Division I school and sit out the 2017-18 season before becoming eligible in 2018-19 (unlikely). He could have gone to a junior college, be eligible to play immediately and compete in 2017-18. Or he could have simply spend the next few months working out on his own before putting his name in the 2018 NBA Draft.

How good will Western Kentucky be without this guy?

The Hilltoppers are the clear favorite in Conference USA this season.

Robinson was always a miracle land for a program like Western Kentucky, but Stansbury still had the best incoming crop of freshman in C-USA even without the big man. Josh Anderson is a four-star guard who could have played for a number of power conference contenders. Taveion Hollingsworth was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball and scored more points in his high school career than any other player in Lexington’s proud history. Chris Duarte had multiple offers from Big East and Atlantic 10 schools. Transfers Lamonte Bearden (Buffalo) and Darius Thompson (Virginia) are also eligible and ready to make a dramatic impact.

The Hilltoppers were 15-17 last season in Stansbury’s first year.