By Trey Mongrue
Elbert Robinson III did not get to enjoy Halloween nearly as much this time compared to years past.
Of course, it was all for a good reason. The freshman center is continuing a diet that he started back when he came to the LSU basketball program last summer. So candy and sweets have recently been replaced with fruits and vegetables.
“I miss candy a lot, that was hard to give up,” Robinson says with a laugh. “Those are the things that I’ve mostly cut out, but it’s very good for me and I feel great with a lot more energy.”
Make no mistake, Robinson is still a big boy. That much was noticeable when he was towering over every player that Morehouse College put on the court during the Tigers’ 71-47 exhibition game win last Friday.
“He demands a lot of attention in the middle,” said Jordan Mickey, who has spent a lot of time paired down low with Robinson during practice. “He’s a very smart guy that has a very high basketball IQ.”
Robinson just is not as big as he was when he first came to Baton Rouge.
After back-to-back seasons averaging double digits in points and rebounds at Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland, TX, the 7-foot-1 center came to LSU coach Johnny Jones weighing in at 310 pounds. After going through a couple of early workouts at that weight, Robinson knew that things would have to change in a hurry.
“All my life I had heard that I needed to drop weight or I wasn’t going to make it at the college level,” Robinson said. “So I started eating better and conditioning better – a lot of conditioning.”
Through the strenuous workouts and healthier eating habits, Robinson has shed more than 40-pounds and is currently weighing in at 268.
“Elbert improved dramatically over the summer,” said Jones. “He’s gotten better with his footwork and has been able to get up the floor better now. He has made great strides to do well for us this year.”
Even during his larger high school days, Robinson believed that he played his best when LSU ran the floor. Now with a leaner body, he feels that he can do more of that for a longer stretch of minutes.
“It makes us an up-tempo team and great in transition,” says Robinson, who idolized LSU legend and fellow-center Shaquille O’Neal as a kid. “That’s what we’re trying to be this year.”
It’s a good thing, too, because his emergence as a key player in LSU’s rotation may directly correlate with how far the Tigers go this season.
Not only does he bring in another legitimate 7-foot body to bang down low with the other towering frontcourts in the Southeastern Conference, but it also allows other LSU players to move to their more natural spots. If Robinson makes the center spot his, it allows for Mickey to see more minutes at power forward and for sophomore Jarell Martin to shift over to the wing.
“I see us being a big front court,” explained Robinson “I don’t think anybody will be able to outrebound us. I’m a hard worker.”
But Robinson’s real work hasn’t even begun yet. As ironic as it may seem, his goal now is to actually gain some of the lost weight back.
“I want to get up to 275 pounds,” he said.
On top of that, he admits that he still needs to work on his lateral movement and guarding guys that are much quicker than him. That should all come with time, and as the Tigers prepare for their season opener against Gardner-Webb this Saturday, Jones plans to show patience with his Robinson’s development process.
“With Elbert being a freshman, he’ll have to continue to grow,” Jones explained. “We are excited about him because if I had to pick one player that has really improved from when we started back in the summer, I would certainly have to give a nod to Elbert.”
That’s high praise, and it’s something that Robinson is ready to live up to, because he believes the size of his heart is much larger than his newly transformed body.
“I just want to do what they ask me to do,” he said. “I’m going to get the job done.”