6C Thursday, November 14,2013/TipOff
Apre-emptitve salute to the Fresh Five
Glenn gets enough credit. I think
even sometimes the (Michigan)
coaching staff maybe thinks Glenn
was always this way. They think,
'Oh, he's the son of Glenn Robin-
son, so of course.' No, he wasn't.
He wasn't really good as a sopho-
more to be quite honest."
You'll never be like your dad.
If there was one 'Big Dog' grow-
ing up in Shantelle Clay-Irving's
house, it certainly wasn't her son
"Everyone wants Glenn to have
this Big Dog, this urgh - " Clary-
Irving paused to growl, clenching
her teeth and fists, "in him. I just
don't think Glenn has it. His dad
came from the hood - he had to
have it. Not (Glenn III), and I don't
think he'll ever have it.
"He doesn't want be his dad, he
doesn't want to have that. And I
don't want him to have it."
Robinson's brother Gelen, the
football and wrestling star who
will play linebacker at Purdue next
year, was born with that mean
streak and, according to Clay-
Irving, always wanted to be the big
Glenn's lack of emotion, his abil-
ity to remain calm and composed
through the highest highs and the
lowest lows, has become his trade-
"I could say, 'Uncle so-and-so
died,' and he'd go, 'Oh really?' "his
mom said, shrugging her shoul-
ders and dropping her voice to a
monotone in mockery of her son.
"There's just no emotion. When I
say boring, that's him."
Glenn was always taller, but
even from a young age, Gelen was
bigger, stronger, and according to
Wallen, an "I'm-gonna-rip-your-
head-off type of guy," which made
for an interesting dynamic in the
brothers' competitive relationship.
"Nothing much can get him
riled up," Gelen said. "That would
sometimes irritate me that it's
hard to get under his skin. For me,
being the complete opposite, itgets
In hindsight, Glenn appreciates
his brother's "annoying" antics
because it constantly tested his
ability to remain stoic.
But for as good as Glenn is at
keeping his emotions under wraps,
he's even better at internalizing
things in order to fuel his passions.
He's aware of his insecurities,
Brumm says, and they're what
make him "get up in the morning."
In the middle of high-school
workouts, Wallen repeatedly
reminded Glenn that he was
passed up by the in-state schools,
and by the McDonald's All-Amer-
ican game, or that he finished fifth
in Indiana's Mr. Basketball vote.
But nothing has persisted more
than his strive to reach his dad's
In his first year playing for Pur-
due, Glenn Jr. averagedbetter than
25 points and nine rebounds per
game. The following season, he
was named National Player of the
And no one ever confused 'Big
Dog' for lacking assertiveness, or
being passive about anything -
critiques that have followed the
younger Glenn from high school to
Everyone quoted in this story
agreed that the reputation is at
least partially a misconception -
that his calm demeanor is mistak-
en for apathy.
But still, those closest to him
have wanted to see more from him.
Said Bartelstein: "He's not a guy
who's ever going to show a ton of
emotion, but there were times last
year when he needed to kind of
take a stand and show some more
Added his mom: "Last year, I
think he thought that was maybe
more so (Burke and Hardaway's)
year. I just don't think he wanted
to step on anyone's shoes."
Brumm, who still talks to Glenn
multiple times a week, was par-
ticularly blunt. Dating back to his
early years in Brumm's program,
Robinson has had the tendency
to defer on open shots in favor of
passes, and especially early on,
failed to take over a game, even
when the opportunity was there
for him as the most talented, hard-
est-working player on the floor.
It's a problem that teammates
and coaches at Michigan have
been getting on Robinson about
since his earliest scrimmages in
This year, Michigan lacks
a proven go-to scorer that can
replace not only Burke and Hard-
away's combined 25 shots, but also
their ability to create for them-
selves and teammates with the
game on the line and the shot clock
running down. Today, Brumm
says, that's where Robinson has
the most area for improvement.
"That's his battle," Brumm said.
"I think he perceives, 'I'm going to
play my role,' and really, maybe his
role is supposed to be to take that
shot, or go in there and dunk that
on somebody, you know? Don't
You're not a leader.
For someone who thrives on
proving doubters wrong, Robinson
said the announcement that he had
been named a team captain was
He becomes just the program's
fourth sophomore to receive the
honor but said it's something he
knew the team needed him to do.
"I wanted this," he said. "It's
my job to step up and be a leader. I
expected to be the captain."
While the decision surprised
many outside the program, who
pointed to his quieter demeanor,
it wasn't shocking to his previous
Robinson didn't just lead Lake
Central in scoring for three con-
secutive years, he out-worked each
and every one of his teammates.
Today, that leadership is still
reverberating in the school's gym
each morning, when six to seven
players get up at 5:30 a.m. com-
pared to the one or two that would
sometimes join Robinson in earlier
Nothing got Brumm more fired
up than when Robinson's leader-
ship was brought into question.
"He leads by example. To me,
that's more important," Brumm
said. "I'm not into this rah-rah
leadership, because it can some-
times be mistaken for real leader-
It perturbs Brumm that some
close to Robinson fail to see past
his visible emotions.
"Glenn is a thinker. Don't mis-
take Glenn's facial expressions for
not caring," he said. "I think some
people - I'm biting my tongue
because I'm not going to say who
- there's a lot of people that really
don't understand Glenn Robinson.
"It bothers some people when
Glenn doesn't tell you what he's
thinking, but that doesn't mean he
Brumm spoke of Robinson's
leadership for nearly 10 consecu-
tive minutes, wrapping it up by
saying that, "If people don't under-
stand who Glenn is, that's their
In Ann Arbor, it seems folks are
finally understanding, even begin-
ning to embrace, the Glenn that
people in Indiana know and love.
Bartelstein, along with Hard-
away, were two of the veterans
that took Robinson under their
wings the most.
"He's becomea celebrity in Ann
Arbor. At first, I think all of atten-
tion kind of got to him - didn't get
to him in a bad way - he just didn't
know what to do," Bartelsein said.
"But he accepts that and is com-
fortable with it now."
Throughout last season, Robin-
son was left in the corner to oper-
ate in only a residual fashion. Early
in the season, as teams attempted
to limit Burke, Robinson's defend-
er helped on the pick-and-roll, and
Robinson was left with open jump
shots and dunks. Big Ten coaches
adjusted their defenses to stymie
"And that's when all the nega-
tive things started to happen," he
Michigan finished 3-4 in Feb-
ruary, as Big Ten teams repeat-
edly exploited the Wolverines and
what some perceived to be a lack of
toughness. At just 6-foot-6, Robin-
son was overmatched and bullied
in the paint.
"Guess what happened?"
Brumm asked rhetorically. "Glenn
didn't get as many touches. His
production went down, and people
say he's soft."
Fans turned on Robinson, and
while he said all the right things
publicly, those close to him noticed
"He sort of played out of his
position, and I don't think he was
satisfied with that," said his grand-
mother, Carolyn Crawford.
Added Bartelstein: "I think it
got under his skin a little bit. I
think he was frustrated. He want-
ed to get more shots in the offense
and didn't know where his next
shot was coming from."
Michigan finished the year 22-2
when Robinson scored in double
figures, and heading into the
NCAA Tournament as the nation's
favorite upset pick, he quickly
After a scare in the first half
against South Dakota State, Rob-
3-pointers to open the second half
"You've got to get that little kill-
er in him that when someone's try-
ing to push him under the basket,
you've got to push back a little bit,
and I think he got that at the end of
the year," Bartelstein said
His production in the NCAA
Tournament pointed to a positive
outlook for this season, said Craw-
"I think he laid back a little bit
last year, but I think he'll be tough-
er this year."
You're nothing more than an
Though Kansas's biggest lead,
14, came three minutes before the
timeout speech, it seemed any
multi-possession deficit would be
too much for Michigan to over-
come. The Wolverines were find-
ing ways to score but couldn't
put together a string of defensive
With the two teams trading bas-
kets, McGary was fouled to initiate
the game's final media timeout.
The coaches huddled together,
diagramming plays, while the
players bickered a few feet away.
With established veterans like
Hardaway and Burke joining five
seniors on the team, members of
Robinson's inner circle admit-
ted that he'd perhaps been wary
of stepping on any toes. But, as
Crawford put bluntly, "He had had
enough. He wanted to win."
McGary called the speech "cou-
"He just finally said, 'You know,
screw it,' and said what he had to
say after maybe holding things in
the whole season," Albrecht said.
"The thing is, when Glenn steps
up and speaks like that, guys listen
because you know it's important."
"It was an 'aha!' moment. Every-
one in the huddle looked around
and was like, 'Wow,' " Bartelstein
In the final 3:47 of regulation,
Robinson's words paid dividends;
Kansas was held to just one field
goal and committed three turn-
overs. Less than a week later, he
was on a flight to Atlanta.
Following the loss - which
Robinson says he'll never watch
- Beilein asked his players if
anyone would like to speak. Ten
days after the huddle, Robinson -
overcome with emotion - again
raised eyebrows by being the first
to volunteer. His speech, a thank
you to the seniors and veterans
that were prepared to leave, set
the table for a promising sopho-
But in the ensuing days, reports
surfaced that he and McGary were
testing the NBA Draft waters -
that was, until Robinson called his
mother and grandmother.
egacies are funny. You
can't anoint them until
time has passed, but at that
point, you can't enjoy them in the
Solution: Recognize the legacy
in the present. This group of
ately as the
has just one
left together, NEAL
so enjoy it ROTHSCHILD
can. It will
last at most five months more.
The recruiting.class of 2012 is
extraordinary. An aberration. A
remarkable assembly of big-name
cachet, underdog status and ser-
There's not a non-descript one
among them. Each has carved a
persona that fans can relate to.
Like the Justice League superhe-
roes. Mitch McGary is the quirky,
enthusiastic beast on the pick-
and-roll, Glenn Robinson III the
quiet, assassin-like freak athlete.
Spike Albrecht is the charmed,
pocket-sized wonder. Nik Stauskas
is cocky and prone to slap the floor
or throw up 3-goggles on a regular
basis. Caris LeVert is understated,
a rail-thin marvel of an athlete.
He's soft-spoken and still sports
This group hasn't had the cul-
tural impact of the Fab Five, but its
effect on the direction of Michigan
basketball is comparable. And as
far as we know, it won't cripple
the program for the next 15 years.
They didn't need to bring a sense
of swaggering hip hop to the bas-
ketball scene to leave a profound
The Fresh Five has brought a
sense of permanence to Michigan
basketball. The Trey Burke era may
very well have been a two-year
run of success before the program
fell back to reality. But McGary,
Robinson and Co. have bridged the
gap to the future. They're making
sure the Big Ten Championship
and Final Four appearance weren't
a fleeting snapshot of Michigan
Where just a year ago, the five
were new to campus, learning from
the upperclassmen, a year later
they're the team's leaders. Aside
from McGary in the post, they're
The sophomore class is a rare assembly of talent, with no busts, that has changed the trajectory of the program and brought a sense of permanence to Michigan baskethall.
all the most experienced at their
position. This is their show.
"Last year, I thought it was Trey
and Tim's team," McGary said. "So
I kind of sat back and learned from
them. This year, I think Ihave
more of a leadership role and am
going to take charge."
Look anywhere in college
basketball, and you won't find
something like this in years - this
being a group of freshmen of vary-
ing pedigrees all finding success.
There was no unheralded recruit
in the Fab Five. And no pointing
and'hollering about John Calipari's
Kentucky teams - that's predict-
able. Land five-star recruits like
you're picking apples at the grocery
store, and you can expect to have
that type of success.
There were a couple big names
in Michigan coach John Beilein's
2012 class by spring of two seasons
ago, but he wanted more. There
were a couple of potential roster
holes to fill.
Michigan looked at a point
guard destined for Appalachian
State just a few months before he
was scheduled to arrive in Boone,
N.C. and turned him into a col-
lege basketball folk hero. It was
the quickest evaluation of a player
Beilein can remember. That guy,
Albrecht, went on to score 17 points
in the National Championship.
John Beilein would watch high-
lights of Albrecht's prep-school
tapes on flights in the middle of the
2012 Big Ten season and realized
that this guy could help Michigan.
There's LeVert, who would be at
Ohio University if Illinois hadn't
lost grip of its season in 2012 and
lost nine of its last 10 games. Bruce
Weber was fired, former Bobcat
coach John Groce was hired as the
new boss, and LeVert decommitted
Asked about LeVert's abilities
before the season last year, Beilein
bursted into a bona fide giggle. He
was slated to redshirt the 2012-
13 season, but the bird needed to
be let out of his cage. Same way
this year, with LeVert slotted for
a bench role until Beilein real-
ized that the guard needed to be
on the floor as much as possible.
He's rewarded coach by leading
the team in scoring, pouring in 24
points on 6-for-7 shots from behind
the arc in Tuesday's win over
South Carolina State.
The core recruits lived up to
their expectations. Robinson was
the No.11 recruit in the country
and played like it. He was the most
consistent freshman last year, and
he was predicted to be top-15 draft
pick if he entered the draft.
McGary stumbled his way
through the early going of last sea-
son, showing high energy, yelling a
lot, but not adding a lot to the stat
sheet. That changed as he trans-
formed himself into a prized com-
modity in six NCAA Tournament
games. Potential was realized and
he was pegged as a top-20 draft
The Wolverines couldn't ask for
more with Stauskas. The native
Canadian has proved himself as an
elite shooter with a strong game
near the rim to boot. I'd venture
he's the best in the country on an
There's also not a disappoint-
ing one in the bunch - a rarity for
the crapshoot nature of projecting
high-schoolers into successful col-
lege basketball players.
Each not only earned playing
time as a freshman, but impor-
tant minutes. Each had marquee
moments that cemented their place
in the program
"It's atypical to see freshmen not
only earn the minutes that they've
earned, but to have the type of
success that they've been able to
earn as well," said assistant coach
Bacari Alexander. "For that, you
get excited about the future."
Just like the Fab Five, this group
is just as tight.
The summer they came to Ann
Arbor, McGary, Robinson and
Albrecht were already friends.
LeVert and Stauskas blended in
seamlessly. Albrecht said that
the chemistry between them was
palpable before they played their
first game. That they all earned
important game experience only
compounded their bond.
Most likely, Robinson and
McGary are gone at the end of the
year. That'll be the end of the Fresh
Five. Three will remain, but these
five will always be a unit. More and
more, it's looking like LeVert, and
possibly Stauskas will join them a
few years later.
What the players can do is well
known. There's no guessing on
their potential. Their legacy is
there to be formed, and Michigan
fans would be wise to lean forward
and pay close attention.
Rothschild can be reached
at email@example.com or on
Tipoff - November 14, 2013