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Little Big Man Is In Motion

"He's at his best when he's almost out of control. It's like the child when they learn to walk. You start holding him, but you want to let him walk so you pull your hands back and let him go on his own."

Motion Picture

The most exciting player in college basketball can't sit still. He is constantly in motion, tapping his feet, standing up, pacing around. Roy always cherishes the moments Nate appears to be subdued, when things are quiet, because in an instant everything can change and the room will fly into chaos.

Nate Robinson, a 5-9 junior, was nicknamed at birth by his father, Jacque Robinson, a former MVP of the Orange Bowl. (Matt Sayles -- AP)

"He's always ready to go 100 mph," Roy says.

Jacque Robinson has a theory about all this. He thinks it has to do with his son's size. Because Nate is so close to the ground he creates more energy, kind of like a spring that is pulled down as far as it can go, then when the spring is released, it hurtles into the air. This is how Nate can jump so high, he surmises. It's also how his son can possess these endless reserves of enthusiasm that propel him through games.

Perhaps with a less vivacious player this would be a disaster. But so much of basketball is about energy, and the verve of UW's littlest player makes the team more effective. It's something that can't be measured in numbers though Nate's at 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals a game are good. Rather it's the way he gets those statistics that make him so vital.

"I just think whatever I put my mind to, I can do it," he says.

Last spring the NBA invited him to its draft camp in Chicago. It was something of a surprise because the NBA isn't usually in the business of giving extended tryouts to players who opposing fans greet by displaying pictures of Gary Coleman. But this was a new challenge, something more for Robinson to prove.

Soon Romar's phone started to ring.

"You wouldn't believe what this guy is doing," the scouts shouted.

"I see it every day," Romar replied.

By the end of the second day, Pacers President Larry Bird had told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "He was very impressive; if he stays in college, they will win the whole thing next year."

During the Pacific-10 tournament just a few weeks earlier, Robinson -- still dressed in his Washington uniform -- walked up to Bird and said "Mr. Larry Bird, can I have your autograph?"

Now with the future suddenly open, he pondered the NBA, dreamed of the money and ultimately decided that Bird was right. He was Nate the Great, after all, and if he returned, Washington could indeed win the whole NCAA tournament. It was a notion that seemed preposterous at the time given the way the Huskies barely made the NCAAs and lost in the first round. But after winning the Pac-10 tournament last weekend and getting the No. 1 seed, well, nothing seems impossible in Nate Robinson's world.

"It opened my eyes," he says of the draft camp. "It made me a better player. It made me understand the game. I know now what I have to learn."

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