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BYU’s ‘Three Robinsons’ are putting on quite a show

BYU guard Jaxson Robinson works against Fresno State guard Xavier DuSell at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.
BYU guard Jaxson Robinson works against Fresno State guard Xavier DuSell at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In a trio of famous trios, you can read about the fabled “Three Musketeers,” you can listen to the famous “Three Tenors” and you learn from the “Three Wise Men.” But if you are seeking entertainment, BYU has a fourth trio worthy of your attention — the “Three Robinsons.”

Jakob, Jaxson and Nick are not related, but each Robinson is thriving in Provo. They have different roles, but each shares a similar story of perseverance to get where they are. The spotlight hasn’t always shined on them, but it is today.

Jakob Robinson

Having grown up a BYU fan and winning state championships at nearby Orem High, Jakob Robinson was devastated when previous Cougars staffers told him he wasn’t big enough to defend the corner at BYU.

Truth is, Robinson isn’t that big. Physically, he is generously listed at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, but his big-play mentality is measured differently, and BYU football coach Kalani Sitake took notice.

BYU cornerback Jakob Robinson (0) celebrates after a defensive stop during game against at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU cornerback Jakob Robinson (0) celebrates after a defensive stop against Oklahoma at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

However, without an offer, Robinson decided to play for Utah State. He saw action in four games during the Aggies’ 2020 season and finished with a meager eight tackles, hardly enough to fill a suitable resume for a new suitor, but he set out to transfer anyway.

Enter BYU.

Sitake never forgot about Robinson and given a second chance to sign him, he didn’t hesitate.

During the COVID-19 season of 2021, Robinson had three interceptions, including two circus-type catches at Georgia State. The following season, he had one interception and made the game-saving tackle to preserve BYU’s 24-23 victory against SMU at the New Mexico Bowl.

Last fall, the alleged undersized playmaker intercepted four passes, including a pick-six against Cincinnati during BYU’s Big 12 home opener on Sept. 29. Robinson finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles — 39 unassisted.

When the BYU football team kicks off its second Big 12 season in August, Robinson will run out to his corner position with a head full of confidence and the most interceptions on the team (eight). He will also be living a dream he feared was gone for good when BYU initially passed him by.

Jaxson Robinson

A superstar at his hometown Ada High in Oklahoma, 17-year-old Jaxson Robinson, a 6-foot-7, four-star basketball prospect, took his NBA aspirations to Texas A&M. During the shortened COVID-19 season, Robinson appeared in 14 of the Aggies’ 18 games. On his best night, he scored six points.

Suspecting a capped future in College Stadium, Robinson transferred to Arkansas, where he averaged just 2.8 points in 16 games in 2021-22. His season high was six points — again, not the atmosphere he was hoping for.

Enter BYU.

Cougars basketball coach Mark Pope needed a guy who could score, and Robinson needed a coach who would let him shoot, and the transfer portal brought them together.

Last season, Robinson started 30 games and averaged 8.5 points while leading the team with 61 3-point shots. This season, he hasn’t started any and still leads the Cougars with a 16-point average off the bench and is hitting 41% of his 3s. During his career-high 28-point game against Denver, Robinson sank eight 3-pointers.

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His mom, Brandi Robinson-McWilliams, describes her son as “unselfish and determined.” When asked if he minds coming off the bench instead of starting, Robinson confidently says, “I just want to help my team win and get to the NCAA Tournament.”

His team is winning. The Cougars are 12-1 and ranked No. 12 in the AP Top 25. BYU begins Big 12 play Saturday at the Marriott Center against 11-2 Cincinnati (8 p.m., ESPN2).

An NBA scout from the Brooklyn Nets came to Provo last weekend to watch Robinson play against Wyoming. He won’t be the only one. National pundits frequently mention his name when talking about the best sixth man in the country.

Like Jakob Robinson, Jaxson is living a dream he feared was lost, when his initial plans didn’t work out like he thought.

Nick Robinson

Nick Robinson lived his dream of basketball greatness as a star at Liberty High in Liberty, Missouri, where his teams went 54-3, and as a team captain at Stanford, which played in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments (2001-05).

For Robinson, his soul-searching moment came years later during a meeting with his athletic director at Southern Utah on March 9, 2016. The 39-year-old head coach was dismissed after four seasons and a 28-90 record.

Robinson also left Cedar City with damaged vocal cords that challenged his ability to speak. While working as an assistant at Seattle University, he underwent several surgical procedures and remains on the road to recovery.

As with Jakob and Jaxson, Nick’s basketball life wasn’t going as he had hoped.

Enter BYU.

Pope hired Robinson to join his staff in 2019 to build a team capable of challenging Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. Five years later, BYU faces an even greater challenge as a new member of the Big 12.

Robinson is also the composer of the Cougars’ nonconference schedule. With Pope’s blessing, he crafted a slate of games that kept BYU mostly at home, except for one true road game at Utah, a game at the Delta Center against Fresno State, and two neutral-site games in Las Vegas against Arizona State and NC State.

The combination of scheduling and BYU’s impressive performance, including the win against No. 17 San Diego State, has earned the Cougars a No. 2 NET ranking — the analytics used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee to determine who gets to keep playing in March.

Robinson, a returned Latter-day Saint missionary, never dreamed he would coach at his church-sponsored BYU but he’s here and his influence is felt throughout the program. To his credit, even with a voice that requires him to temper high volumes, Robinson is making what Neil Diamond and Cougar fans would describe as “A Beautiful Noise.”

‘The Three Robinsons’

Jakob, Jaxson and Nick grew up in three different states in very different circumstances. When it came to sports, Jakob wanted to play at BYU. Jaxson had never heard of BYU (except for Jimmer), and Nick chose to play at Stanford — instead of BYU.

Despite the crooked paths each had to travel, the Three Robinsons found their way to Provo, where the trio is carving out its own place in history and having a really good time doing it.

BYU assistant basketball coach Nick Robinson coaches up the players during game against Denver at the Marriott Center. | Nate Edwards, BYU Photo
BYU assistant basketball coach Nick Robinson coaches up the players during game against Denver at the Marriott Center. | Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is a play-by-play announcer and show host for BYUtv/ESPN+. He co-hosts “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com and is the author of the children’s book “C is for Cougar,” available at deseretbook.com.