The work that transformed Jerome Robinson into one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most electric and efficient scorers started with a summer of 6 a.m. wake-up calls in Santa Monica, Calif.
He knew how long the days would be when he decided to make the cross-country trip to work with New Hampshire-based trainer Noah Laroche.
But the results LaRoche has gotten out of NBA stars like Russell Westbrook, who’ve adopted the routine he carved out as owner of Integrity Sports, was undeniable.
When Robinson got to California, he was essentially in an NBA immersion program.
“I had seven hard weeks of just straight every day 6 to 2, 6 to 1 just working out really,” Robinson said. “It was my decision to do it. Me and my parents’ decision. I would wake up, try to beat LA traffic on the way out there. So I had to be out there early.”
The morning’s started with a beach workout, sand sprints and agility work. By 9 a.m., he was on the court, surrounded by college players he could see as peers who were there to work out ahead of the 2017 NBA draft.
There was the clique from Gonzaga: Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Matthews, Przemek Karnowski. There was Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson from Washington State, Roger Moute a Bidias from Cal, and Trevor Thompson from Ohio State.
But the collection of NBA players that arrived later — from Westbrook to Emmanuel Mudiay to Georges Niang — dialed up the competition.
“Playing against some of the best competition, you’re going against guys that are in predraft workouts and stuff like that and supposed to be first-round picks and the other half of it, I got to play against a lot of pros, too. So it’s basically the best competition I’ve been able to play against in one area,” Robinson said. “You learn so much just from going at each other all day.”
Every facet of the workout was based on preparing players for the next level.
“Everything is pro,” Robinson said. “So I could only shoot NBA threes, I only used NBA balls. We did all predraft NBA workout stuff.’’
Every drill was designed for attention to detail.
If they played one-on-one games, the rule was you had to score using the fewest number of dribbles. If they played three-on-three games, the rule was dribbling wasn’t allowed at all. If they practiced step back jumpers, they did it without dribbling.
The focus was on form, balance, footwork, repetition.
But by the end of it, Robinson could sense all the ways his game had grown. He learned the types of hard-to-notice nuances that end up being game-changing.
“I’m out here going against pros that could torch me at any time of the day,” Robinson said. “There’s no letting up. They’re just going to keep coming at you. I think that’s what really helped me a lot, too. You had to score.”
The byproduct has been a player that’s led the ACC in scoring in conference play and helped turn a Boston College team that won just nine games a year ago and picked to finish next-to-last this season into a 16-10 turnaround team that’s eyeing a way to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
After leading the Eagles in scoring a year ago, there was an expectation that Robinson would continue to progress. But no one saw such a dramatic leap coming.
When he left Santa Monica, he was supremely confident in the skillset he’d refined.
“I was like, I just can’t let up from here,” Robinson said. “Because leaving there, I felt like I was dominating there and I was like, ‘When I come back, I just can’t let up. Just treat it the same way and I’ll be perfectly fine. Even the guys there, they were like, ‘If you play like you played out here, the sky’s the limit.’ ”
BC coach Jim Christian noticed the difference when Robinson got back to BC. His body was stronger. His work ethic was better. He was more experienced.
“I knew what he was capable of,” Christian said. “But he’s been so much more efficient and such a better player and that’s what happens when you work. you dedicate yourself to it, you play with confidence and it’s all the byproduct of all that.
“He’s working out with NBA players,” Christian said. “Working out with NBA players, you see things, pick things up, and talk to them. It probably helps from a confidence standpoint. Like, ‘Wow, I’m as good as those guys.’ ”
Robinson is the ACC’s leading scoring in conference play and it’s not close. He’s giving the Eagles 25.6 points per game. But what’s staggering isn’t the scoring, it’s the efficiency.
Robinson’s shooting 57.6 percent from the floor in conference play, 48.1 percent from three, and 88.6 percent from the line.
The centerpiece of his season was the 46-point onslaught that Notre Dame withstood earlier this month to come away with a 96-85 win.
Robinson needed just 23 shots to put up the most points any player in the country has scored in a regulation game all season and the second most ever by a BC player.
It was only the second time this season that Robinson took 20 or more shots.
“I don’t want to be taking bad shots, because I know that’s not the right play at the right time,” he said.
His 121.6 offensive rating is eye-popping when you consider his 26.5 usage rate.
“He’s just a real confident player and he’s playing really well and I think he’s got a good understanding of things that he can do,” Christian said. “He makes guys better. The other part of it, too, is the reason he can score so much is he can make the right plays. He’ll make other guys better, he’ll get shots for those guys. It’s not like he’s just firing up balls. He’s making the right play.”
Boston College proved to it could play with anyone with wins over Duke, Miami, and Florida State. Robinson came into the season knowing he could do the same, because of the summer he spent actually doing it.
“I take it like, no matter who we play, at the end of the day, we’re still just playing basketball,” Robinson said. “There’s no reason to get nervous or scared in a moment like we’re in now, because we’re just hooping. We’re winning games.
“If I was to get nervous when I was out in California, they probably would’ve torched me every day. You can’t be nervous or you’re going to lose. So you’ve just got to take it as mano-a-mano. I’m just hooping. That’s how I treat it out there.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.