CHICAGO – It goes without saying the NBA’s annual pre-draft camp is important for all its participants.
The camp serves as a barometer of sorts for the NBA’s 30 teams, which not only get a fairly accurate gauge on a draft prospect’s physical abilities but his mental and emotional makeup as well.
At this year’s camp, which is being held at the Quest Multisport, almost 70 draft-eligible prospects will strut their stuff in the hopes of improving their draft status. Mitchell Robinson is not one of them, although he could have been. The talented 7-foot center was invited to the draft combine, but opted to bypass it.
“He is definitely a wild-card in this draft,’’ said a veteran Eastern Conference talent scout, who is here attending the draft combine. “He’s all over the place on draft boards. He has one of the wider ranges, if not the widest range, of any player in the draft. I have him going anywhere from 15 to 30.
“We don’t know a whole lot about him. There’s just not a lot to go off about him yet.’’
Indeed, while the vast majority of players at the camp have fashioned a quality college resume, Robinson never played one single game of college basketball, or any other organized basketball, since leaving Chalmette (La.) High School a year ago.
A consensus Top 10 high school player, Robinson originally committed to Texas A&M, only to de-commit and attend Western Kentucky, where his godfather, Shammond Williams, was on the staff.
But Robinson’s stay at Western Kentucky was short-lived. After practicing with the team for few weeks in the summer, he inexplicably left school and then was suspended by head coach Rick Stansbury.
Robinson was granted his request to transfer but, after making a few visits, including one to Kansas, he returned to Western Kentucky. However, In September, Robinson announced he was foregoing college and planned to prepare for the 2018 NBA draft.
As such, NBA scouts are scurrying to garner as much intel on Robinson as possible. They are watching tapes of his performances in the McDonald’s All-American Game, where he had 14 points, three rebounds and two blocked shots, and the Jordan Brand Classic, where he scored 15 points in 17 minutes with three rebounds.
The 233-pound Robinson was also chosen to the USA Basketball U19 tryouts last summer but didn’t make the cut for the final 12-player team.
“He’s not NBA-ready, that’s for sure,’’ a Western Conference NBA scout said.
Added another veteran Eastern Conference scout who saw Robinson play twice: “I’d be shocked if he could play out of the gate in our league.’’
But some NBA officials are intrigued by his potential, fully realizing Robinson is a late-bloomer to the game. He started playing basketball n eighth grade.
To some who have seen Robinson perform, he reminds them somewhat of DeAndre Jordan or Tyson Chandler. Former NBA All-Star Caron Butler, whose agent Raymond Brothers also represents Robinson, said the latter has a major upside.
“He’s a special talent,’’ Butler said. “He’s extremely mobile and fast for someone his size. A lot of people talk about how he didn’t play in college, but he was an All-American in high school.
“He’s good and he’s going to get a lot better. Like I said, he could be special.’’
Some NBA scouts agree, although they would like to evaluate Robinson’s game even more to get a better feel for it.
“Right now his best skill is his shot-blocking; he’s a very good shot-blocker,’’ the Eastern Conference scout said Robinson, who has grown 10 inches since eighth grade and whose growth plate is still open. “He’s got talent, but it’s a raw talent. He’s a project, an interesting project.’’