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Like Father, Not Like Son : Purdue's Glenn Robinson Stays on Right Side of the Street as He Dominates the College Game

February 05, 1994|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robinson took Roosevelt to the 1990-91 state playoffs and made the game-winning shot in the regionals, made the game-winning shot in the semifinals and thoroughly outplayed Alan Henderson, now a star at Indiana, in the state championship game. Now on one wall of Roosevelt's Bo Mallard Gymnasium are life-size photos of every player from that title team. It cost donors $10,000 for the display, but no one complained.

"The next Michael J.," said a Roosevelt student, glancing at the towering photo of Robinson. Then the kid stood under the gym basket and started shooting a penny through the net.

Robinson could have gone anywhere, but he narrowed his choices to Purdue, Indiana, maybe Minnesota or Tennessee. Minnesota and Tennessee were eliminated because of distance. Indiana's exclusion is a little less clear.

During Robinson's visit to the Bloomington campus, then-assistant coach Joby Wright took the star forward to Coach Bob Knight's office. As Wright and Robinson watched film of the Hoosiers, Knight entered the room, saw Robinson's feet propped up and yelled, "Hey, get your feet off the desk!"

Knight was joking, but Robinson didn't know it. To this day, Heflin said, Knight believes the prank cost Indiana a chance at the sensitive and shy Robinson.

Maybe, maybe not. Kendrick said Robinson promised to sign with Purdue years ago, when Robinson attended one of Keady's basketball camps.

"I learned that if Glenn tells you something, you can take it to the bank," Kendrick said.

The same goes for Robinson's future at Purdue. Last year, he told Keady he wasn't leaving early for the NBA, and he didn't. This year, he said he will call a news conference if he changes his mind.

"It's very important for me to get my degree," Robinson said.

Next topic.

*

Robinson sits near courtside on a folding chair. He is talking about the hard side of Gary, the side of town that seemingly has dragged his father down.

"It's just just like anywhere else," he said. "If you mind your business and don't get caught up in a lot of b.s. on the streets, then you'll be fine.

"There are two sides of the street. You can choose to be on one street, where the good people are, or you can go on the other side, where people there are no good. It's like that everywhere."

Was he ever tempted to switch sides?

"No, I get along with everybody," he said. "I get along with people on both sides of the street."

That might explain why he has never quit thinking about his father. On occasion, mainly during the summer, sometimes during the school year, Robinson drives back to Gary and searches out his namesake. According to one family friend, Robinson recently saw his father on the streets, but had to turn away.

Maybe it was a coincidence, but shortly thereafter, the son went into a brief shooting slump. Even later, when told by Keady a reporter planned to do a story involving his real father, Robinson said he didn't want Glenn Sr. mentioned.

"He loves him and he respects him," Kendrick said. "He would love to have him around. He respects him as a father, and I know that he cares for his father. He has no grudges. I'd say he'd love to see him straighten out his life."

Heflin said: "He cares for his real dad. But he also cares for his mom, his stepdad, his teammates, his coaches. Glenn is a very sensitive kid."

Somewhere he's out there--the old man, that is. If he's smart, one day Robinson Sr. will follow the lead of Robinson Jr.: He'll join his son on the right side of the street. Where people are good.

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