After taking a hiatus due to COVID last year, the 2021 Tarkanian Classic returned with 175+ teams spread across multiple gyms in Las Vegas, NV over the span of a week. Featuring elite basketball competition in prep and high school divisions, the must-see annual December high school tournament provided evaluators an opportunity to watch the prestigious NBA Academies in Africa and Latin America in addition to programs from around the U.S., Canada, and even Germany.
Pro Insight was on hand to cover the event and caught up with Robert Dillingham of Donda Academy (CA) and Team CP3 (NC). Dillingham is a member of Kanye West’s Donda Academy, which is stacked with talent that includes highly-ranked prospects Zion Cruz, J.J. Taylor, and Jahki Howard, as well as several other key cogs. The shifty guard helped his squad to a 2-0 record at the Tarkanian Classic, orchestrating games beautifully with his elite ball skills and shot-creating prowess.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Dillingham discussed the basketball background in his family, narrowing down his favorite J. Cole song, what set NC State apart from his other options, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present NC State commit Robert Dillingham, from Hickory, North Carolina:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?
Robert Dillingham: Just working out everyday and always being humble and like never getting ahead of myself no matter how much fame. And then knowing how much kids and stuff look up to me, so I just focus on basketball. I made basketball the main thing, and that's how basically I'm here today.
PI: Any other athletes in the family?
RD: Yeah, my dad played. My brother, he played. He won [SIAC] Player of the Year at Paine College. He transferred from LR [Lenoir-Rhyne University], but we definitely have a lot of [basketball history] in our family.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
RD: I used to play football growing up, but (laughs) when I got to high school I just stopped (laughs). I couldn't handle the contact (laughs).
PI: For those that aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and play style?
RD: Just doing whatever the team needs to win, 'cause like I could score the ball, but also if I don't need to score the ball such as [with] Donda, I can move the ball, facilitate and still get the W for the team.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
RD: Really right now I'm just working on…I feel basketball-wise like I'm there. I just need…I could get better at that and like how we need to get better at everything, but mainly like getting bigger and conditioning and being able to take contact, 'cause at college, the next level is gonna be more contact than high school, obviously.
PI: Who do you model your game after and try to study on film?
RD: I like watching Kyrie, 'cause he's a small guard, but like he does everything I do: facilitate, score or shoot. So it's a person I can model my game after a little bit.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
RD: I don't know, really (laughs). Just hanging out with my friends for real and just doing…I don't know…I don't know (laughs). The same thing every other kid do, I guess, so not really much else other than basketball 'cause like that's the main sport, the main thing. So yeah.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists? Is Kanye up there?
RB: Kanye is definitely at the top, but my favorite is J. Cole for real. Yeah, for sure. J. Cole is my favorite rapper, he’s from North Carolina, yeah (laughs).
PI: What’s your favorite J. Cole song?
RB: I don’t know, probably Return of Simba or something like, yeah, something crazy. He’s got so many songs and there's so many hits, yeah (laughs).
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
RD: (Laughs) I don't know that one. Umm #lit. I guess so, I don't know (laughs). That’s a hard question.
PI: You think maybe #lit 'cause you’re entertaining to watch?
RD: Yeah, like just entertaining to watch, but also like I get the job done.
PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?
RD: I'm bringing my phone, and probably just two friends or something, yeah (laughs). Definitely my phone though, for sure I need that, but probably a friend and a game, something Xbox, something to do for sure.
PI: Congratulations on your commitment. What do you think you bring to NC State?
RD: I mean I feel like I can just bring playmaking and winning to the table ‘cause I feel like I’m a winning player and I’ll do anything it takes to win so I feel like I can make the players there better and then just help in general.
PI: What set NC State apart? What made them different from the rest of your options?
RD: Mostly really Coach Keatts, ‘cause he was the head coach… other schools were contacting me, it was the assistant coach and the head coach would hit me sometimes, but at NC State, the head coach would hit me every time. Coach Keatts would call me sometimes. That’s what really made my decision because you gotta go to a school that messes with you.
PI: What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
RD: Probably to just stay humble and never get ahead of yourself, 'cause like you do that like it's really over for what you work for.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
RD: Umm… I don’t know. Nick (laughs and looks at Nick, who is a videographer with Donda Academy). He got some words. What are words to describe me?
Nick: Quiet, hard-working, humble, and wise.
PI: That’s awesome. And this is Nick, he’s your videographer?
RD: Yeah, that’s my guy.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
RD: I just want to be remembered as being the best as I can be, like the hardest worker, 'cause there’s a lot of people that have a lot of potential and just never get to reach it 'cause like they get ahead of their self and then they don't be humble and they get like a big head and I just want them to remember me for not having that.