Jevoni Robinson a one-of-a-kind find for NC State basketball

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 19, 2013 

NC State, N.C. State, Morehouse, ACC

N.C. State's Jevoni Robinson (34), left, defends a shot by Morehouse's Mamadou Doukoure (34) during the second half of N.C. State's 87-62 exhibition victory over Morehouse Saturday, November 2, 2013, at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • N.C. Central at N.C. State

    When: 7 p.m.

    Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

    TV/Radio: Fox Sports Carolinas, 101.5-WRAL

    Projected starting lineups

    N.C. Central (2-1)

    G Emanuel Chapman 4.3 ppg, 5.7 apg

    G Ebuka Anyaorah 9.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

    G Alfonzo Houston 10.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg

    G Jeremy Ingram 25.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg

    F Jay Copeland 11.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg

    N.C. State (2-1)

    G Tyler Lewis 9.3 ppg, 6.0 apg

    G Desmond Lee 15.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg

    G Ralston Turner 11.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg

    F T.J. Warren 21.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg

    F Kyle Washington 0.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg

    Player to watch

    Jeremy Ingram, guard, N.C. Central

    The senior guard from Charlotte has scored at least 20 points in NCCU’s first three games. He had 27 in a loss at Cincinnati and 29 in a win over Campbell. He has shot well (51.2 percent) despite taking a lot of shots (43).

    Observations

    N.C. Central’s season looks a lot like N.C. State’s so far. The Eagles lost at Cincinnati (74-61) and beat Campbell by double-digits (62-43). They play Appalachian State in Durham on Thursday. … N.C. State has won the previous four meetings with NCCU, going to back to the 2007-08 season. The Wolfpack won the first three games by an average of 29.3 points but the last meeting, in Dec. 2011, was a 65-60 win.

    Joe Giglio

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 didn’t 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.

But basketball?

“It’s 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 didn’t 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 Robinson’s 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 didn’t 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. “He’s intelligent and such a great person. Really he’s 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.

Robinson’s favorite moment of last season wasn’t 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. State’s 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, he’s played more organized basketball in the ACC than he did in high school.

He’s 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 can’t leave all this,” he said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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