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BEWARE OF BIG DOG
Glenn Robinson, Purdue's 6'8" sophomore forward, answers to a variety of nicknames. There's G-Man, because he sometimes plays like a man among boys, and G-Money, because he's as good as money in the bank. There's G-Force, because he's such a powerful force on the court, and G-Love, because, well, we won't speculate. "I guess it just sounded good," he says.
But Robinson's most appropriate sobriquet is Big Dog, which was hung on him when he was growing up in Gary, Ind. It speaks to the ferocity with which he plays the game and to his status in the Big Ten. At week's end he led the conference in scoring and rebounding, averaging 27.5 points and 9.7 boards per game. He could become the first rookie to lead the Big Ten in both categories since George McGinnis did so for Indiana in 1970-71.
Although Big Dog is without question the best first-year player in the nation, nothing makes him growl more than being singled out as a one-man team for the Boilermakers, who were 15-6 following Sunday's 93-78 loss to Indiana in Bloomington. Robinson has gone so far as to refuse to give interviews after some games when he felt reporters were concentrating on him to the exclusion of his teammates.
"Sometimes the writers and camera people all come over to me as if I were the only guy who played," he says. "If I'd just played a game of one-on-one, I could understand that, but everyone on the team contributes to our success, and they should get attention too. People might think I don't like to talk, but that's not it. I just want the credit to get spread around."
Robinson declined all interview requests last season, which he sat out as a Prop 48 player, and watched as two fellow freshmen, Michigan's Chris Webber and Indiana's Alan Henderson, helped lead their teams to the Final Four. That was especially frustrating for Robinson because he had beaten out Henderson for Indiana's Mr. Basketball award in high school and he had held his own against Webber in several summer AAU games.
Robinson is often compared with Webber, who is the more powerful inside player. Robinson, though, is the more versatile. He is as comfortable leading the fast break as he is posting up near the basket, and he's a remarkably accurate outside shooter for a player his size, as he proved by converting all five of his three-point attempts en route to scoring 31 points in an 84-76 loss to Michigan on Feb. 7.
"I've been coaching for 30 years, and I've come across maybe four or five players who combine his skill and attitude," says Purdue coach Gene Keady. "He's ornery, and I like that too. But the best thing about him is that he doesn't think he's a big deal."
Robinson did display a bit of bravado recently when he declared that he was the equal of Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal—as a rapper. "Tell Shaquille I'm coming for him in a couple of years," said Robinson, smiling. But then he reverted back to the team approach: "No, just tell him I'll make the music, and he can do the rap. We could be a pair."
LET THE SUN SHINE IN