Robbie Avila is hard to miss. The 6-10, 255-pound sophomore out of Indiana State has been mesmerizing this season, averaging 14.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for the 13-2 Sycamores.
What stands out more than those statistics is how smooth the big man looks in his highlight packages. He’s gone viral on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter under the nickname “the College Jokic.”
Meet college basketball’s version of Nikola Jokic: pic.twitter.com/QCWU8ojyyx
— CBB Content (@CBBcontent) December 10, 2023
There are obvious similarities between the players both in build and play style. They may not look like the most athletic players on the floor, but they use their high basketball feel to make plays.
“He’s remarkably smart,” Avila’s college coach Josh Schertz told reporters this season. “He can get a rebound and lead the break. We can play offense through him. He can step out, shoot 3s. He has an unbelievable basketball IQ.”
Big men aren’t supposed to be able to pass the way that Avila does. He credits his dad and brother for teaching him that skill, along with studying a lot of tape from Jokic and Domantas Sabonis over the summer.
“He’s definitely someone I look after. Jokic is a big man that can play both inside and outside, and his ability to create is something I try to model after him.”
“Obviously I’m nowhere near as good as Jokic, but to see those little sparks of comparisons is amazing to me.”
Avila sees himself as a combination of Joker, Sabonis and shades of Kevin Love because of his ability to play inside and outside, stretching the floor with and his pure shooting ability. He’s hit 43.2 percent of his 3s this season and 56.2 percent of his field goals, dominating at the college level.
Despite the comparisons to the two-time NBA MVP, he’s humble in the assessment of his own game.
“My strengths are being able to space the floor at my size and my playmaking ability. But my athleticism is going to hurt me a little bit. I’m going to be able to use my strength to hide that. But not being able to jump as high or move as quick, I have to work on that.”
He’s watched some of Larry Bird’s film as well, which is a prerequisite for Sycamore basketball players.
“They always say when you come here, strive to second. You’ll never catch up to Larry Bird at Indiana State.”
Avila knows that he doesn’t look like the prototypical dominant college athlete. But he uses that to his advantage. He’s honed his footwork through years of playing youth football and translated that to the hardwood. That gives him a deceptive first step and a flurry of post moves that shock his opponents.
“Sometimes, I’ll go ahead and make a move and the other opponent will be like, ‘Nice move, I did not expect that.’ I have moves here and there, I surprise my coaches even sometimes with some of the things I do.”
Avila is flattered by the interest that he’s gotten on social media, but he considers it outside noise. The NBA is the future goal for him, and he’s laser-focused on that.
He also has hopes of possibly representing Team Mexico one day. His dad is of Mexican descent, and he said that the momentum to play for them has started to build up a little bit.
“If it does come up, I would be 100 percent happy with taking the offer.”
Avila knows how to embrace a good opportunity when he sees it. Is he going to keep the College Jokic nickname?
“Oh yeah,” Avila said. “I can’t turn that down.”
Source : ESPN.com