It's been a tough year on many levels for the Pitt basketball team, but none tougher than it is on senior Nasir Robinson. Robinson will play his final regular season home game at the Petersen Events Center when the Panthers take on St. John's.
Though Robinson has put up career numbers—11.1 points a game and a team-best 6.8 rebounds a game—it hasn't been the best for him when it comes to his health. Despite going out with a 15-14 regular season record to date, and the possibility of ending Pitt's run of 10 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, Robinson has had to battle through something much bigger this season.
At the start of last season, Robinson was forced to miss the beginning of the season due to a knee surgery. He had the same thing happen at the start of this season, but was back in time for the regular season opener against Albany. The difference this season has been the fact that Robinson has to get his injured knee drained regularly. One of the frustrating things for him is trying to figure out why this time around, he has to keep getting the knee drained as opposed to last year when he didn't have to go through that.
"I asked the trainer (Tony Salesi), because last year around this time, I was good," Robinson said. "I was healthy. I was asking, ‘how come last year around this time I was healthy.' I'm not 100 percent all the way up. I really haven't had the rest. I've had a lot of games back-to-back, and practices going hard every day."
Despite not putting up double-figures in the last seven games, Robinson does have back-to-back games with 11 rebounds in each game. He does feel that once he gets warmed up prior to a game, he's ready to go. Being able to do that gives him some added confidence, knowing he's due to repeatedly getting his knee drained. That defines the toughness and character that Robinson has displayed throughout his career. When he puts up a rebounding effort as he did Sunday at Louisville, despite the pain, that kind of performance pushes him even more to just fight what he's going through.
"Once I get warmed up, I keep playing," Robinson added. "I just go. I don't think about it. Once I get rolling, my knee gets warmed up, I'll be good. It's stiff. It's hard for me to bend it how I want to bend it. Once my blood gets rolling, I'm good to go.
"It's painful. I've been getting it drained every other week; just fight through it, just keep playing. This is my last year. I just have to fight through it every practice and do what I can do to help my teammates."
Robinson was asked if he would consider redshirting with the knee the way it's been, if this was not his senior year. Despite the toughness he's displayed, he admitted if he wasn't a senior, a redshirt would be worth looking into.
"Most definitely, I would have thought about it," Robinson said. "I'm not making an excuse, it's just something I've been battling through all season. I've just been going out there and playing hard, fighting through it."
It might be a long shot, but Robinson saw a Connecticut team that entered the Big East Tournament last year as a No. 9 seed. The Huskies won five games in five days to claim the Tournament championship, then marched all the way to a national title. Perhaps that toughness that Robinson has displayed could rub off on his teammates, as they begin the Big East Tournament next week. It might sound like a long shot, but you can tell the idea is on Robinson's mind.
"We're not comparing ourselves to Connecticut, but we know it's possible," Robinson said. "Anybody can do it, not just us. Any team in the Big East can do what they did. We just have to stick together and play as a team, give it our all every game and keep fighting. Sacrifice."