At Michigan, "O-15" is shorthand for the first day of basketball practice, Oct. 15. For sophomores Rumeal Robinson and Terry Mills, the recent arrival of O-15 brought more joy than if the number had just filled out their bingo cards. Robinson, a 6'2" playmaker, and Mills, a 6'10" center-forward, both came up a few points shy of 700 on their SAT scores and under Bylaw 5-1-(j) were ineligible to play during their freshman seasons. So they spent last season with the three R's and the three W's: watching, weightlifting and waiting.
Though they ate, studied and worked out with the varsity last winter, the two high school All-Americas couldn't practice or play. So they went one-on-one against each other three times a week (neither will admit to the upper hand). But both see their year of living vicariously as a good experience. "Before, academics were on the back burner," Mills says. "This helped me put things in perspective." Says Robinson, "It just made me a little more hungry."
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Robinson was adopted at age 12 by a Cambridge, Mass., family and attended Patrick Ewing's alma mater, Rindge & Latin High. He's a tough, hounding player, and after eyeballing all the Big Ten guards last season, Robinson spied only one underclassman who might give him real trouble: Gary Grant, who happens to be his backcourt mate. The respect is mutual. Says Grant, "Rumeal makes me work all 94 feet."
Last summer Robinson tried to teach his brother Louis how the game is played. "I pushed him too hard," says Rumeal. "He wouldn't talk to me for two days." Louis is three feet tall and five years old.
Mills starred for Romulus High in Michigan, just 20 miles east of Ann Arbor, and was named the state's Mr. Basketball, beating Derrick Coleman, now of Syracuse. Mills has a sweet touch with the ball but is still learning the ABCs of D. He spent the summer working out and eating barbecue, apparently more of the latter—he returned weighing 235 pounds, 30 more than last year.
After a season of learning off the court, Mills and Robinson will spend this one learning on it. If they round into form by M-15, the rest of the NCAA may rue the day.
With Robinson (left) and Mills at the ready, Michigan looks doubly tough.