For the last nine games, Duncan Robinson has played a role he hasn’t been in too often over the past three years of his life.
An instant starter at Williams, where he played as a freshman for the Division III runner-up Ephs, Robinson then transferred to Michigan, where he had to sit out for a year under NCAA rules.
And then last season, behind his sharp shooting, coach John Beilein gave him a chance to start.
Robinson never looked back and didn’t relinquish the role, starting in the Wolverines’ final 27 games and shooting 45 percent from the behind the arc — good enough for ninth in the country.
But the 2016-17 season has taken a bit of a turn in the wrong direction for Robinson. He has struggled to find his shooting accuracy from last season. That, coupled with the emergence of redshirt sophomore forward DJ Wilson, led to Robinson’s demotion to the bench.
It’s an unfamiliar role to Robinson, but it’s one that he has embraced. And that was evident Tuesday night in Michigan’s 97-53 win over Central Arkansas.
“He’d been scoring really well off the bench,” Beilein said. “Earlier in the year, I was concerned abut his shooting because of some habits he picked up.”
Robinson came off the bench with just over eight minutes gone in the game. One hundred ten seconds later, he got his first touch on the ball — off a pass from senior guard Zak Irvin — to the right of the basket behind the arc.
Robinson hit the three, and then hit his next shot from deep just 35 seconds later.
In the second half, Robinson once again came off the bench with just under five minutes gone in the stanza. And once again, he hit his first two 3-point attempts.
“He has to know that he has a very valuable role on this team,” Beilein said. “And that is to really be catalyst off the bench for us. To be ready to shoot, to go and rebound, make plays, understand our offense, and so it’s really good.
“We haven’t had that where we know that we might get double figures off the bench from one guy.”
But this isn’t Robinson’s first time shining off the bench. Since Wilson started over Robinson in New York City, Robinson has averaged 8.9 points for the Wolverines, and was — in a couple games — Michigan’s only scorer off the bench.
On the flip side, in both halves against Central Arkansas, Robinson missed his next two shots after the first two makes. He also seemed tentative with his play, something Beilein pointed out.
“I thought Duncan once he made a couple, he got tentative,” Beilein said. “I mean I would’ve been firing up those babies up like crazy when you make two in a row.
“But he missed one and then got real tentative. We gotta have that mentality that ‘I’m open every time, and I don’t shoot it when I’m not’, not ‘You’ll see if you’re open when you get the ball, and then turn the shot down if it’s not good.’ ”
So Robinson, obviously, still has some things to work on.
But, in his new role, Robinson has given Beilein a weapon off the bench, and it could come in handy as Big Ten play starts in less than a month.