Roster Preview: #4 Robin Duncan

Vermont Still Runs on Duncan

Once again, a Duncan brother will play a prominent role in determining the success of Vermont’s season. The third and final Duncan brother, Robin, will be entering his junior year in Burlington and will look to carry the torch left for him by older brothers Ernie and Everett. The Duncan brothers have become synonymous with Vermont basketball in recent years, as there has been at least one Duncan donning the green and gold since 2014. With Robin now the lone Duncan remaining, he’ll aim to follow in his brothers footsteps before him and leave his own legacy as a Catamount.

Like his brothers before him, Robin grew up in Evansville, Indiana, where he flourished as a leader for William Henry Harrison High School (3x team captain) and all-state point guard. His 9.8 assists per game average was good enough for seventh nationally during his senior season and ultimately broke the school record for career assists (583), passing none other than older brother Ernie. For as good as Ernie and Everett were coming out of high school, Robin was viewed as just as good, if not better due to his incredible basketball IQ and court awareness.

Since joining the Catamounts, Robin has appeared in 65 games with 32 starts and has averaged 23.2 minutes per game. Robin has proved himself more than capable of handling a significant role from day one, but his proudest moment as a Catamount has to be when he, Ernie and Everett became the first trio of brothers to ever appear on the court together for an NCAA Tournament game in 2019. They also became just the second trio of brothers to all start in a division one game when they squared off against UMBC (1/23/19). Without a doubt there have already been some incredibly special moments for the Duncan brothers.

As Robin prepares to enter his junior season, he’ll be able to find comfort within a role that he’s grown accustomed to in his previous years. The 6’5 combo guard will once again be tasked with running the show for the second unit and will likely hear his number called as the first off the pine. With 32 starts under his belt already, Robin has proved that he can handle the point whether it’s with the first or second unit. The elder Duncan’s took their game to the next level as upperclassmen – can we expect more of the same from young Robin?

How Duncan can Make an Impact

During his first two years in Burlington, Robin has been as solid and reliable as they come. The combo guard does a little bit of everything for the Cats and currently has career averages of 4.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He’s nowhere close to the type of sharpshooter that his brothers before him were and likely never will be, but Robin’s style of play is far different than that of Ernie’s and Everett’s. The decision making and basketball intangibles that Robin possesses have helped him hone his craft on a wider scale.

On paper Robin projects better out on the wing due to his size, but his vision and court awareness are that of a seasoned vet at the point. As such, Robin utilizes his height against smaller guards, reading the floor and controlling the pace as a pass-first point guard. While he’s not a threat to light it up from deep, Robin will attack the basket, oftentimes backing down smaller guards in the post in order to capitalize on those high percentage shots from under the basket. However, where Robin really shines is his ability to kick it back from the post, finding the open man sitting beyond the arc.

One of, if not the biggest reason for Robin’s significant playing time early on in his career has been his defensive expertise. His prolonged length is crucial, as it allows him to easily cover the 1-3 spots and occasional 4 in small ball line-ups. However, the long length is just the tip of the iceberg. Coach Becker could deploy any number of players with length on the defensive end, yet he continues to lean on Robin time and time again because of his knowledge and intelligence of the game. Not only can Robin handle multiple defensive assignments, he knows exactly where everyone else needs to be and can communicate accordingly should any defensive breakdowns occur.

With 32 starts in 65 games, Robin has been incredibly reliable and consistent over the course of his first two years as a Catamount. Even with a deep guard rotation in place, Robin will likely be the first to hear his name called from the bench and should be able to slide into the starting line-up with ease in the event of any injuries. He might not have made as big an impact as his brothers before him, but Robin’s dependable and unwavering play has made a tremendous glue guy thus far for the Cats.

Room for Improvement?

Despite averaging over 20 minutes a game in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, Robin still has plenty of room to grow as a player. While his statistical outputs are rather unspectacular, Robin’s style of play is unfair to judge strictly from a box score perspective. He excels best on the defensive end and is known for his steadiness and reliability more so than anything. Nonetheless, Vermont’s talent level keeps rising and Robin will need to elevate his game in other facets if he hopes to expand upon his role even further.

Arguably the biggest point of emphasis is Robin’s shooting. Unlike older brothers Ernie and Everett, Robin doesn’t have the same shooting touch and is somewhat one-dimensional when looking to score. Although he’s quite good at creating mismatches underneath the basket, opposing teams know they can back off and bait him into taking jump shots. Robin typically will look to pass rather than attempt an open jumper in that situation, making him less of a threat and predictable at times. His career field goal percentage isn’t terrible (42%), though it should be higher considering the amount of shots that Robin takes within the paint most nights.

Unless something suddenly clicks for Robin, he likely won’t be turning into the three-point specialist that his brothers before him were. Over the course of  two years, Robin has only connected on 13 attempts from beyond the arc and is shooting a paltry 19% from deep. Maybe Robin needs to enroll in the Ernie Duncan shooting camp. Granted, Robin has the awareness to know that isn’t his forte and only averages about one three-point attempt a game, but his woes from deep are definitely holding him back from becoming more efficient offensively.

Last year could’ve been an anomaly, but Robin shot a meager 45% from the charity stripe just a season ago. His freshman season saw him up at 75% with roughly the same amount of attempts (64 to 55), yet for some reason Robin couldn’t consistently connect from the line. As someone who prefers to attack underneath the hoop by utilizing length to up or around defenders, this scarce free-throwing shooting is cause for concern. Ideally Robin will have used the offseason to clean up his shooting mechanics and become a threat to score across the entire court.

Season Goals

As we just touched on, improving upon those shooting woes – especially from the free-throw line, should be up there on Robin’s lists of goals for the season. Returning to form around 75% or higher from the stripe will be a priority, while also becoming a bigger threat from beyond the arc. Again, being a perimeter shooter hasn’t been a part of Robin’s offensive repertoire, but if he can fix up his shooting there’s no reason not to believe that he could easily double his career makes (13) in just one season. 

As a freshman, Robin was named to the America East All-Rookie team, but since then has yet to find himself on the receiving end for much of any individual awards and recognition. The soon to be junior has a great chance to seize the America East Sixth Man of the Year award, as he finds himself the stalwart leader of the Cats second unit. The award may ultimately end up in the hands of someone who boasts a higher scoring average, which again is all the more reason for Robin to focus on his scoring mentality. Robin certainly will receive enough minutes to manifest himself into contention for the award – now he just has to capitalize on his moments.

The other goal in mind for Robin is somewhat strange, but hopefully it resonates. In both his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Robin put up almost identical numbers across the board. With a 23.2 minutes per game average and similar project role moving forward, Robin needs to ensure that he doesn’t become complacent. Robin won’t be overtaking starters Stef Smith or Benny Shungu anytime soon, while guards Aaron Deloney and Justin Mazzulla are also nipping at Robin’s heels. John Becker has a plethora of options, meaning Robin needs to take his game to the next level or risk losing precious minutes. Becoming a better shooter is part of the solution, but also continuing to evolve as a playmaker and defensive menace will help Robin break through that glass ceiling.

Final Predictions

John Becker recently held a Zoom conference where he discussed a range of topics from Covid updates to the new arena, player personnel, scheduling and so much more. In regards to the upcoming season and player personnel, coach Becker mentioned the possibility of multiple players taking on a red-shirt year. There’s obviously numerous positives and negatives that go along with that, yet with an already very deep roster and uncertainty surrounding the season, red-shirting certain players appears to hold more weight this year. It’s a delicate situation and one that hasn’t always worked in the Cats favor (Isaiah Powell), but one of the names that was mentioned was none other than Robin Duncan.

On the surface it’s an odd choice, as Robin currently projects to be the first off the pine and has the ability to slide seamlessly from the 1-3 spots. This could just be a bunch of smoke and mirrors from coach Becker as a way to motivate his players to stay competitive, though at this point every option remains on the table. Realistically it’s hard to envision coach Becker red-shirting one of the more reliable and consistent players on the team without a master plan in place that helps the team both now and in the future. Putting Robin on hiatus for a year seems very counterintuitive, but in Becker we trust.

Personally I believe that Robin will not only play this year, but in fact be a significant contributor to the team. Robin’s role will again be fairly identical to what we’ve seen previously, though ideally he’ll continue to progress and develop his game even further. Ernie and Everett each had their moment, now it’s time for Robin to carve out his own legacy as a Catamount.

2020-21 Statistical Predictions

  • 21.8 minutes per game
  • 4.4 points per game
  • 3.1 assists per game
  • 3.4 rebounds per game

3 Responses

  1. Robin does a number of things well, and of course I love still having a Duncan brother on the court. But his shooting woes last season have to have some origin in his head. Nineteen percent from three is pretty bad, but at least it was consistent from year one to year two. Going from 75% at the line to 44% however, is inexplicable. Free throw shooting is just a matter of ingrained mechanics, and when a player has been playing for the past 15 years of their life, those mechanics – good or bad – should be pretty consistent. I’ve just never heard before of a shooting slump of this magnitude, and it’ll be interesting to see next winter if Robin has indeed been spending his quarantine time at the Ernie Duncan shooting school. On the other hand, height never slumps and the value of a 6-5 point guard who can penetrate and dish is apparent.

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