Former UConn star forward Stanley Robinson has died, the school announced Wednesday morning. He was 32.
Robinson is among the better players in UConn history, having played four seasons for Jim Calhoun and totaled 1,231 points, 776 rebounds and 130 blocks. Robinson was among the best dunkers and athletes in college basketball during his time with the Huskies (2006-10) and helped propel Connecticut to the 2009 Final Four.
“I am truly heartbroken,” former UConn coach Jim Calhoun said in a statement. “Stanley was such a beautiful person, caring and giving. He was a gentle soul, too gentle for this world.
“He was not only loved by his teammates, but everybody who met Sticks liked him. He will always be a Husky.”
What made Robinson’s college career all the more impressive was his humility and drive to improve. He arrived at UConn in 2006 after being a highly regarded recruit; Robinson was Mr. Basketball 2006 in his home state of Alabama. But he didn’t immediately make a difference under Calhoun. This was a Huskies team two years removed from UConn winning a second national title, and Robinson was expected to be a big piece that could make a third championship a reality.
Robinson vowed to better himself, taking Calhoun’s advice and leaving the team for a semester. He embraced blue-collar labor at a junkyard in Connecticut and watched his teammates from the stands of Gampel Pavilion. The tactic was aggressively challenging even in the mid-aughts. Calhoun told ESPN.com at the time, “It wouldn’t work with most kids, no way. Most kids would have said, ‘Screw you.’ Alabama was on the phone every day. Stanley could have left in a heartbeat, but he’s unique.”
Upon his return, Robinson got better, made UConn better and eventually turned himself into a second-round NBA pick in 2010 following his senior season.
Robinson spent the majority of his professional career playing in South America. He most recently was a member of Chilean outfit Español de Talca.
“‘Sticks’ just couldn’t ever get the break he needed,” Calhoun said. “But no matter what happened, he always had a smile on his face.”