Duke basketball teammates reuniting in Las Vegas Summer League

Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball treasures Tre Jones and Justin Robinson are together again.

It’s early March 2020, and the Duke basketball team is walking off the court after beating UNC in the regular-season finale. Justin Robinson just had the game of his life on Senior Night, and Tre Jones just dropped 21 points and 11 assists against Cole Anthony.

Optimism and excitement surround the team for the next few days. And a shot at a sixth national title seemed very realistic.

Little did we know that just a few days later, the entire sports world would shut down.

A few months later, Robinson graduated from Duke and signed a professional contract to play in Montenegro as a part of the ABA league. Meanwhile, Jones entered his name in the 2020 NBA Draft and wound up as a second-round pick, going to the San Antonio Spurs.

Now almost a year and a half later, Robinson and Jones will once again be teammates. The two former Blue Devils will play for San Antonio in the Las Vegas Summer League, which will begin for the Spurs against the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7 p.m. ET Monday.

An opportunity for Duke basketball duo to prove worth

The Summer League will provide Jones with some much-needed experience after spending most of last season riding the bench for Gregg Popovich. He played in just 37 games for the Spurs last season and scored just 2.5 points per game.

While he never really got the chance to show what he could do in extended minutes, Jones will have to stand out during his time in Vegas. The Spurs have a loaded backcourt with other young players looking to make a breakthrough in the league. But he should play a more prominent role next season if Patty Mills decides to sign with another team this offseason.

As a former second-round pick, the odds are certainly not in his favor. Still, Jones could find himself in an ideal situation to prove himself as a reliable piece of the rotation.

Robinson, on the other hand, has almost no shot of making the Spurs. It will be an excellent opportunity to show NBA personnel what his game is like, though, despite the low odds that he’ll make a big enough impression to get an NBA contract.

Given Robinson’s family ties, I am sure he managed to get a couple of strings pulled to land a roster spot on San Antonio’s Summer League squad. His father, Spurs legend David Robinson, was a staple at Duke basketball games throughout his career, and it will be fun to see him in the stands once again cheering on his son.

Given the entirety of Robinson’s collegiate career, it is incredible he is a professional player who has a shot at making an NBA team.

Robinson started as a walk-on and spent most of his five years glued to the bench. His teammates and coaches always loved him, but it never translated to playing time until late in the 2019-20 season when the Blue Devils went on a losing streak. His presence on the floor lifted the team. He was blocking everything at the rim, throwing down dunks, and banking in 3-pointers.

He was a savior that season. Before his insertion in the lineup, Duke had gotten crushed by NC State and suffered a tough loss on the road to a lowly Wake Forest team. Once he entered into the rotation, the Blue Devils looked like a completely different team.

He capped it all off with a 13-point, six-rebound, four-block performance during his final against rival UNC. It was so spectacular that Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski called Robinson’s story better than Rudy.

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Simply put, Justin Robinson was one of the greatest Duke basketball stories that never were. His emergence had the Blue Devils looking like a national title contender once again, but it was all for naught because of COVID-19. Now, he will team up with Tre Jones once again to try and produce some more magic, this time for the Spurs.