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March 12, 1990 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-03-12

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Page 6 - The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday- March 12, 1990
by Mike Gill
Daily Basketball Writer
Breaking up, they say, is hard to do.
So is saying goodbye.
But after another six games, at the most, Rumeal Robinson will never
again wear a Michigan uniform. It's been expected, of course. But now, that
time is near.
Will there be another fairy tale to end a storied career? Will there be any
more moments to hold so precious to a Michigan fan's heart as that picture
of him at the foul line, basketball in hand, beads of sweat piling on the
brow, muscles tensed, eyes looking to the heavens and the rim, hoping to
shoot home a national championship?
But from such high glory as last year's title brought, there have been
moments too, where the world seemed unfair at every turn and dealt an
unfair hand.
So Rumeal Robinson, like the television show, this is your life.
Where do we start? Let's look past this Saturday's farewell performance
at Crisler. Remember that Michigan State crowd in East Lansing? They
chanted and antagonized you with chants of "SAT, SAT, SAT" as their
players played you and your teammates right out of a chance at the Big Ten
Championship. Those Spartan fans referred to your score on the Scholastic
Aptitude Test, which did not match the requirements of a newly instituted
NCAA rule, Proposition 48. It forced you to sit out your first year at
Being dyslexic hurt. The letters and numbers appeared scrambled. Time
became a needed commodity to take the test. It wasn't available. Thus, the
biting sting of having "failedi' the SAT came into play.
A good friend, Paul Chase, who had a son that played basketball with
you at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School explained to you, "When
you have a problem dribbling with your left hand you work on it until you
can do it satisfactory. That's how you have to approach Prop 48."
Which is what you did and why you are graduating on time.
But remember that one summer night before you came to Michigan.
Stars were out, time to shoot the hoop in the park. Time to dream about life
in Ann Arbor, life in the big time, life down the road. Time to improve the"
game you grew to love. And then this little kid, about age nine, saw you
and said, "My dad says you're dumb because you didn't pass the SAT."
And while on the subject of schooling, remember those grade school

days? The grammar school teacher would always point to the bright students
with the good grades and say, "He's going to go to college."
The teacher never told you that.
And it hurt.
But remember how you explained it all. You said, "In a lot of kids
hearts, they have inside the determination to do something. At the time,
they cannot really get over the hump. Once they get over that hump, they
can go smooth."
And that bright kid who the teacher kept telling that college would
appear on his horizon? "There was one kid in my class who was really
bright, the brightest kid in my class. He never went to college. He dropped
out of high school."
So it turned out that you and Terry Mills made it over that hump, ending
up in West Quad one fall day in 1986, yet both victims of the new rule.
And while who knows where the "bright" student is today, you started
taking classes at Michigan, tape recording them to insure top-notch grades.
That's how life begin at Michigan. It was hard, but nothing compared to
how your life began.
Remember the hardship of the early days? It's been pretty well
documented lately - living in Jamaica with grandma until age six, moving
to Boston to live with mom, then being forced to foster homes, to life in
the street, and then like a God-send, having Mrs. Ford take you under her
wing and warm house.
"He was living in the street when I found him. He was living in the
street," Helen Ford recalls.
When she discovered you, you were living that cycle of grabbing snacks
at the local community center and jumping from friend's house to friend's
Or sleeping at an apartment complex - in a hallway.
Remember those first words Helen Ford imparted to you which first
caused ice to break around a heart so cold.
"How are you?"
"What's your name?"
And finally with that question, in a squeaky high-pitched voice of 12
years, came back, "Rumeal."
Now the person you call your mom recalls, "I asked when was the last
time he really ate. 'Three weeks ago' he said, 'but I got snacks.' I asked him
where his family was and he told me 'my mother don't want me. She put
me out.' I didn't believe him and he told me he was serious. Of course, he
was filling up and I was trying to compose myself."
From that first night at the Ford's, things have looked up. Other than the
fact that once you became a star, your biological mother wanted a piece of
you and you had to go to court to put a stop to it.
And then there's your biological dad. Never saw him. Never had that
chance. What is it you said? "The only thing I really regret is that I never

knew my real dad."
Then in 1978, that chance came.
Returning back to the homeland, Jamaica. Gonna see dad. And when you
got there, you find out he died, unexpectedly, while you were en route to
"I never knew him," you would later say. "I didn't know how tall he was
- that was the kind of thing that was fascinating to me at that time - how
tall I would be. I wanted to know what my father looked like.
"My adopted father, Louis Ford, people say I look like him. So I see it
as if that was God's way of saying 'maybe you weren't supposed to meet
Ah, yes, Louis Ford. The Cambridge mailman with a smile. The Boston
community raised money to send him to see you play out in Seattle, thanks
to a newspaper column about him. And then, at your crowning moment, his
son, little Louie, said the words that make parents cringe. "I have to go to
the bathroom."
But fear not. Louie and Louie are about as quick as you on a drive to the
basket. They took care of business and managed to see the two shots from
the concourse.
Thus, a national championship came home, which is probably exactly *
what you envisioned the day you walked by your mom at Rindge and Latin,
while she worked her job as a security guard, and said, "Mom, I'm going to
Michigan." Of course, it did not please her. She wanted Villanova -
somewhere close for her to visit - and the tear ducts opened.
Such is life.
Last summer brought parades and a street named in your honor right next
to your house, the one you used to build your leg strength in by constantly
running the stairs. A moment of which dreams are made.
After that running hook at Crisler Arena that beat Michigan State, you
told everyone why you make such clutch shots, why you are the Rumeal
Robinson everyone knows. It sounded corny, sappy, but just maybe, it's 0
"I think it's from playing on the playgrounds at night. Every time you
shoot the ball and the lights are dim on the playground and you look up and
you see, I guess, that one little star. That's supposed to be you."
And from those dark days in Cambridge with a star providing light, to
now, as you embark on the NCAA tournament, and onto an NBA career, it
has been quite a life.
This is your life.


Helen Ford took Rumeal Robinson off the street and put him under her
'wing. She stands outside the school her son starred at, Cambridge
Ringe and Latin High School, and she works as a security guard.

Rumeal Robinson has no more than six games left as a Michigan FILE PHO
Wolverine but is projected by almost all as a sure first-round NBA draft

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