The reviews for former Villanova forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl praised him for being smart, steady and fundamentally sound.
It was those attributes that prompted the Oklahoma City Thunder to select the 20-year-old player with the second pick of the second round in the NBA draft, No. 32 overall, higher than where most mock drafts had placed him.
“He’s a player that we’ve liked for some time,” Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti said late Thursday night. “I think he’s a really good fit for our organization. He’s tough, he’s physical, he’s a cerebral player.”
The draft choice was made by New York for Oklahoma City, which traded its No. 34 and No. 36 picks to the Knicks.
The versatile 6-foot-9 Robinson-Earl, who played two years with the Wildcats, flew to Oklahoma City Friday to meet with his new team and was not available for comment.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas called Robinson-Earl “a complete player.”
“He’s an excellent pick-and-roll defender, really smart,” Bilas said shortly after the selection had been announced. “He just knows how to play. He can shoot it and he can put it on the deck. He’s a good passer, an excellent team guy that’s going to fit in on any team, a great culture guy.
“But his pick-and-roll defense, I think, is the best part of his game. It’s not like he gets a lot of steals. But he’s really smart in the way he handles the pick and roll. I thought he was one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in college basketball last year.”
Robinson-Earl, the eighth Villanova player to be selected in the draft in the last five years, averaged 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds last season as a sophomore for a Villanova team that went 18-7 and reached the NCAA Sweet 16. He was named co-player of the year in the Big East and a third-team All-America by the Sporting News.
The two-year Wildcats star brings sound fundamentals to the NBA, with the ability to guard all five positions, gain solid position on the boards and handle the basketball. He has worked to be a more consistent shooter, especially from deep, having made just 28% of his three-point attempts last season.
“Jeremiah does everything well but the question is, does that he have that elite NBA skill in any one area?” Bilas said. “The answer is probably no but he’s going to play in the NBA for a long time, and it’s not that big of a deal between 32 and 26. He’s going to play in the league and have a really terrific career, I think.”
Robinson-Earl was one of four players drafted Thursday by the Thunder. The others were 6-8 guard Josh Giddey (No. 6 overall), guard Tre Mann (No. 18) and guard-forward Aaron Wiggins (No. 55).