Mr Robinson teaching Carey the neighborhood
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Mr Robinson teaching Carey the neighborhood

Duke's freshman center credits the Admiral's son for helping improve inside game

Photo: Justin Robinson

By Tom Shanahan, Special to the Times

DURHAM – Vernon Carey’s strong inside play has progressed earlier than expected, especially for a freshman known for using his perimeter skills in high school. To understand a key to his rapid development, consider who takes the court late Duke’s one-sided victories.

That’s when Coach Mike Krzyzewski empties his bench. That’s when Justin Robinson often promptly contributes promptly upon entering the game. ... 

Click here for the remainder of my Wilson Times story

In Tuesday’s 39-point ACC win over Boston College, Robinson grabbed a rebound within 43 seconds and hit a three-point field within 1:02. In the two previous non-conference romps, he had three blocked shots in five minutes against Wofford and two blocks in two minutes against Brown.

Now picture Carey facing Robinson’s effort in practice.

“J.R. has helped me a lot,” said Carey after the Boston College game. “I’ve been learning how to play physical. When I first came here, I had to learn how to play in the post. I’ve learned how to talk on defense. Since the start of summer, we’ve been going at it. I think we’ve made each other better, and it’s showing on the court.”

Carey, a 6-foot-10, 270-pounder, is averaging 17.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. With his play influencing one-sided scores, Robinson has played in seven of 13 contests.

But in front of Coach K, don’t label the 6-9, 202-pound graduate student from San Antonio (Tex.) Christian Academy as a mop-up player.

“You bring up a very valuable guy for us,” Krzyzewski said. “Justin is actually our smartest overall player. He’s like a coach. He’s always helping everybody. He’s in our Fuqua School of Business. He’s a good player, but (ahead of him) there are Javin (DeLaurier) and Jack (White). He helps all of those guys.

“Whatever his future is, if he wants to get into sports you’d want him. He gets it. He’s comes from a good father in that regard, too.”

That’s David Robinson, The Admiral, the Naval Academy graduate and Basketball Hall-of-Famer who won two NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs.

So if Justin Robinson has the ability to push Carey from preseason late first-round NBA 2020 draft projections to more recently as a top-10 pick, he undoubtedly could have played more at other schools.

But Robinson never thinks that way about his time at Duke.

“I came here to play for Coach and obviously there is the academic side,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade any of it. I’ve enjoyed every moment here. I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of the academic side and learning from a guy like Coach. We learn things from him on and off the court you can’t get other places.”


Duke faces only ACC schools the remainder of the season with this year’s shift to 20 conference games, up from 18. The next two are on the road before returning home Jan. 11 to face Wake Forest.

The No. 2-ranked Blue Devils (12-1, 2-0 ACC) play at 8 p.m. Saturday at Miami (9-3, 1-1 ACC) and 9 p.m. Thursday at Georgia Tech (6-7, 1-2 ACC).


--- Duke’s win over Boston College on New Year’s Eve was its 300th of the decade. The 300-71 (.811) record is the nation’s third-highest winning percentage and fourth-most wins (since Jan. 1, 2010).

--- With Brown scoring only 50 points on Dec. 28 and Boston College 49 on Dec. 31, it marked the first time the Blue Devils held back-to-back opponents to 50 or less since the 2010-11 season.

Tom Shanahan is a freelance writer based in Cary and author of “Raye of Light,” a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback for College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s

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I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light

-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.


Don’t believe the myths at Duffy Daugherty’s expense about Bear Bryant’s motivation to play the 1970 USC-Alabama game or myths about the Charlie Thornhill-for-Joe Namath trade. Bear Bryant knew nothing about black talent in the South while he dragged his feet on segregation.


David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in.”

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer,, and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."