Robbins’ successful transition into Big Ten play

Liam Robbins has earned two Big Ten Player of the week awards and one Naismith Trophy Player of the week award.

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Parker Johnson

Gophers Center Liam Robbins leaps for the ball at Williams Arena on Friday, Dec. 4. The Gophers went on to a 76-67 victory over the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

AJ Condon

The Gophers’ men’s basketball team came into an unprecedented season with six new faces joining the team. Among those six new players was a 7-foot transfer coming from Drake University. Junior Liam Robbins has fit in very well with his new team and was recognized on national levels for his performance.

After two seasons of playing for the Bulldogs, the junior joined his cousin and uncle on the Gophers. Senior Hunt Conroy is Robbins’ older cousin, while associate head coach Ed Conroy is his uncle. Robbins and the Gophers didn’t have the same offseason to get fully acclimated, but that hasn’t stopped Robbins from making the transition into Big Ten play.

Head coach Richard Pitino was excited about his big man before play even started. He was impressed by what he saw in practices leading up to the season.

“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.

It wasn’t a normal preseason by any means, and Robbins’ early play on the court showed he needed a bit more time to completely figure things out.

Robbins was dealt with the tough task of getting thrown into action right away and that was demonstrated with the results he put up. In his first few contests, Robbins was dealing with foul trouble, and those fouls were coming early in the game. He would find himself on the bench early in the first half with two fouls.

“To get adjusted to the Big Ten physicality, this is a good test for me. Obviously, I’ve been in foul trouble; part of that, I think, is just because we haven’t had exhibition games,” Robbins said after the team’s second game against LMU. “These games are huge and [I’m] just taking it one game at a time, one day at a time, trying to get better.”

Robbins saw the struggles he was having and made adjustments to his game in order to spend more time on the court. But he wasn’t given the easiest schedule; matchup-wise, he was facing some of the best big men in the nation right from the start of conference play.

In his first two Big Ten games, he was faced up with Kofi Cockburn of Illinois and Luka Garza of Iowa, both of whom found themselves on the preseason Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award at the beginning of the season. Robbins himself was also on the list.

“Shaking the rust off, not playing a game since March of last year, it took me a little longer to get acclimated, plus I was playing with a new team,” Robbins said on his recent improvements. “I’ve been really working in practice on my verticality and just moving my feet to keep me out of foul trouble and I’m seeing the results of that paying off.”

Those adjustments show in his results on the court. He’s averaging 13.8 points per game while bringing in 7.3 rebounds per game. On top of that, the junior is leading the Big Ten in blocks per game with 2.6.

These numbers have earned him two separate Big Ten players of the week, most recently winning it alongside Purdue’s Trevion Williams. Robbins won it after a game-high 22 point performance over then-undefeated Michigan. He was also named Big Ten player of the week on Jan. 4.

On the national level, Robbins was recognized for his first ever Naismith Trophy Player of the Week for that same performance against the Wolverines.

“It’s great to see him succeed, and it’s great to see him take that next step,” Pitino said.