If it all had worked out the way Jevoni Robinson wanted, he would be playing for N.C. Central against N.C State on Wednesday night, not the other way around.
Robinson, a junior walk-on at N.C. State, was a student at N.C. Central for two years before he transferred last year. He didnt play basketball for the Eagles, but he wanted to.
A native of Jamaica, Robinson played soccer, rugby and ran track before his family moved to Charlotte, where he played a season of high school football at Independence.
Its not real popular in Jamaica, he said.
Robinson loved the game but ended up playing other sports. At 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds and with a 36-inch vertical leap, though, he had the size and skill set to play the game. It was just a matter of getting a chance.
He talked with N.C. Central about a possible basketball tryout but their interest never got past the preliminary phase.
I wanted to play for them, Robinson said. Unfortunately, nothing ever really happened, but it worked out better for me.
It didnt take long to get discovered at N.C. State. Travis Eaton, a team manager, saw Robinson playing pickup basketball at Carmichael Gym before practice started for the 2012-13 season.
He was taller than most students on the pickup courts at the campus gym, that stood out to Eaton, but so did Robinsons athletic ability.
The way he remembers, Robinson blocked a few shots, which Eaton chalked up to his size, but then he saw him on a fastbreak.
Robinson went up for a dunk and threw down a double-pump tomahawk.
I was like, What is he doing? Eaton said. His head was way above the rim.
Eaton told assistants Levi Watkins and Bobby Lutz about Robinson. The next day Eaton went back to Carmichael and found Robinson and brought him back for a formal tryout.
It didnt take long for coach Mark Gottfried to be impressed.
Most walk-ons are 5-9 and there are a thousand of them, Gottfried said. With Jevoni, we hit the jackpot.
And not just because Robinson has been an asset in practice, Gottfried said.
Everybody in our program loves him, Gottfried said. Hes intelligent and such a great person. Really hes everything you could want from a person in his position.
Robinson showed glimpses of his raw athletic ability last season with the Wolfpack. He had a dunk against Norfolk State in December and then a memorable block in a home win against Boston College in February, which has since been immortalized on YouTube.
Robinsons favorite moment of last season wasnt either the block or the dunk, but rather his first day of practice.
He said he was in awe of the veterans from N.C. States Sweet 16 team in 2013.
I was so nervous I was trembling, Robinson said. It was one of those moments where you knew you were going to learn from it and become better.
Practice has gotten easier since then for Robinson, and so has the game of basketball. In his second season at N.C. State, hes played more organized basketball in the ACC than he did in high school.
Hes on track to get his finance degree in the summer but still has another season of eligibility left.
Asked if he was going to come back next year, even after he gets his degree, Robinson thought about for a minute and nodded his head.
I cant leave all this, he said.