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July 8, 2012
DeSOTO, Texas - He's the son of a former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick and the younger brother of a five-star forward, yet St. John (Ind.) Lake Central's Gelen Robinson has never played organized basketball.
Robinson, whose father is former Purdue and Milwaukee Bucks star Glenn Robinson, was around 6-years-old when he realized he wasn't good enough or interested enough in basketball to keep playing it.
"I always knew football was the sport for me," Robinson said.
He has spent every year since proving the wisdom of that decision.
Robinson, a class of 2014 prospect, arrived at the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge on Sunday at DeSoto High School looking far more like a linebacker than a power forward. He is also an outstanding wrestler, placing third in the Indiana high school state championships as a sophomore.
He's already an exceptional athlete, even if he doesn't excel at the sport favored by his father and older brother.
Robinson's father won the Naismith and Wooden awards as the nation's most outstanding college basketball player in 1994 before going to the Milwaukee Bucks with the first pick in that year's draft. He averaged 20.7 points and made a pair of All-Star teams before ending his pro career in 2005.
Robinson's older brother, Glenn Robinson III, was rated as the No. 2 small forward and No. 11 overall basketball recruit in the 2012 class.
But it was apparent early on that Gelen Robinson would carve out his own niche.
"I never really played on an actual basketball team," Robinson said. "When I was real young - younger than five or six - I was playing with my brother, but no organized teams."
"Basketball was never really my sport," he said. "Even when I was younger, I just wasn't the size for basketball and never had the skill set that my brother and dad did. I decided to try something new, on the more physical side."
Robinson soon figured out which sport he'd pursue instead.
Football suited his personality better. This outside linebacker knew from an early age that he felt at home on a football field.
"He didn't like basketball, but he went to the YMCA and did flag football and was really good at it," said his mother, Shantelle Erving. "Everyone wanted him on their team. It just went from there."
Robinson continues to hear from basketball coaches asking why he doesn't trade in his football spikes for sneakers. No matter how often those questions come up, he's never tempted. He's having too much fun playing football.
Although he doesn't play the same sport as his father and brother, Robinson said he still has plenty in common with them as he continues his own athletic pursuits.
The same tenacity that made his dad a two-time All-Star and enabled his brother to develop into a five-star recruit has allowed him to emerge as an outstanding multi-sport athlete.
"Everyone in the family is competitive," Robinson said. "We don't accept losing. We're all-around athletic and just have the mentality that you have to compete."
Robinson lives with his mother and stepfather, but he remains close to his dad as well. He said his dad had no hard feelings that he gave up basketball so soon. As long as he was staying active in something, his dad was happy.
He knows he can go to his father and brother for advice on picking a school, though this is still new territory for the family. After all, the recruiting process for Robinson's brother ended nearly as soon as it began. Glenn Robinson III committed to Michigan before he even began his junior year in high school.
There are also the inherent differences in football recruiting and basketball recruiting.
"Him coming to the camps and combines, that was new for him and me," Erving said. "Now we're just learning what's expected. The agility drills, he wasn't used to that. Going to all the schools and camps and everything, we didn't do all that with my older son because he committed so early."
Robinson's versatility has made it a bit of a whirlwind process. He arrived at the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge on Sunday after winning all five of his matches in a wrestling tournament earlier in the weekend.
Even though he excels in wrestling and track as well as football, Robinson doesn't know if he will try to do more than one sport in college. He's focusing on football for now and has his eye on joining his relatives at a Big Ten program.
"The Big Ten is what I'm looking at right now," Robinson said. "But, it all depends on who wants me the most and who recruits me more."
Robinson still doesn't know which schools will fit that profile. It is still very early in the recruiting process and he is still waiting for his first offer. His bloodlines and physical skills assure the offers will come as he adds more polish to his game.
"He's strong and he's explosive," Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said. "And those are two characteristics you can't teach, you just have to find. The rest of the stuff just has to be developed."
Robinson still needs to develop his outstanding physical skills. He already has developed the thick skin that comes from having a familiar name.
As the son of a professional athlete, Robinson feels the pressure of living up to the family name. Sure, he plays a different sport, but that doesn't necessarily change things. Robinson has already figured out a way to deal with it.
"It really doesn't bother me because I'm making my own path," Robinson said. "I'm not much of a basketball player. It's a different sport."
The one other way in which Robinson differs from his relatives is that he lacks the type of nickname that helped make his dad famous. Even the most casual basketball fans of Glenn Robinson's era recognize him as "Big Dog." Nobody's come up with anything that catchy for Gelen.
"Most people just call me G," Robinson said.
He may not be another Big Dog.
But he's showing he can compete with the top dogs in his class.