Robbins, a new face for the Gophers at center

Robbins will be a key player throughout the season as the Gophers make a push for the NCAA tournament.

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Brad Rempel / Gopher Athletics

Center Liam Robbins

AJ Condon

After two seasons playing for the Drake Bulldogs in the Missouri Valley Conference, junior Liam Robbins entered the transfer portal. Head coach Richard Pitino and his coaching staff were able to land the 7-foot center. After losing Daniel Oturu to the NBA draft, Robbins will help fill the void in the front court.

The Gophers have gotten key contributions from its past two centers in Jordan Murphy and Oturu. Robbins has big shoes to fill, but he has the skills and athleticism to give the Gophers the production they need.

“I think he’s an impact guy. I think he saw what we were able to do with Daniel and how we utilized Daniel last year,” Pitino said. “I don’t see why there should be any type of dropoff to be honest.”

While playing just over 27 minutes per game last season, Robbins averaged 14 points a game while shooting 49.9% from the field. He might not have the same skill set Oturu does on offense, but he’ll be an important piece for the Gophers on defense. He averaged 7.1 rebounds a game, but more importantly, averaged just under three blocks a game.

Examining the playing time of last year’s roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Robbins’ time increase. Oturu averaged about seven minutes more than Robbins last season. Robbins could see similar court time this season, and his productivity would be likely to take a jump as well.

It won’t be an easy task by any means going from the MVC to the Big Ten. Switching to a Power Five conference is never easy, and the competition he’ll have won’t make it any easier. Throughout the conference, the center position has some notable names that Robbins will go up against.

The most notable name on that list is Luka Garza of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Robbins’ height will bode well with Garza — who only has an inch on him — but in terms of size, Garza has about 25 pounds on the junior transfer. Kofi Cockburn and Trevion Williams both have at least 30 pounds on Robbins as well.

“He’s all the seven feet, got great hands, great feet, very skilled, and he’s a Big Ten-type player. Obviously there will be an adjustment period like anybody going from Drake up to the Big Ten,” Pitino said.

With COVID-19 postponing the season, and practices being delayed because of it, Robbins won’t have as much time to prepare for the Gophers’ first matchup. The schedule has still yet to be released, but Robbins would benefit from not having to face the physicality of the conference’s top centers in his first conference games.

“He’s stood out in practice, and I think he’s one of the best transfers in the country. He is a talented, talented player,” Pitino said.