Thomas Robinson Overcomes Trying Week to Spark Kansas Over Kansas State
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- As his world seemed to be spinning out of control in front of him, Kansas sophomore forward Thomas Robinson longed for normalcy.
He found it Saturday night in the sport he loves. He found it with his Jayhawks teammates. He found it in the comfort of Allen Fieldhouse.
A week after learning his mother, Lisa Robinson, had died and two days after burying her, Robinson returned to his comfort zone Saturday night. It was anything but normal from the outset when 16,300 delivered a standing ovation as Robinson entered the game against Kansas State at the 16:45 mark in the first half.
The Jayhawks fans stood and applauded each time he exited to the bench and they tried as best they could to will every shot Robinson took into the basket.
Such emotion directed at one person might have been draining for most, but for Robinson it was a sign of things finally being right.
"It is beyond amazing and it was a good crowd," Robinson said. "We have great people all across Kansas. This past month has really opened my eyes to how amazing this place is.
"It's beyond words to describe how I feel and the love that I have for the University of Kansas and the fans."
Robinson let his game express how he felt about the outpouring show of support, which included having one of the KU assistants with him every step last week in Washington, D.C. while he carried out the unenviable task of making funeral arrangements for his mother and his entire team being by his side for the funeral Thursday.
Robinson was part of a front court assault that saw Markieff Morris score a game-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Robinson scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his first game back to help the sixth-ranked Jayhawks in their 90-66 rout of rival Kansas State. As it turns out, while Robinson was grieving his loss, he was also longing to return to basketball.
Friday in practice felt good. Saturday felt even better.
"It feels amazing because I have not been playing basketball for a whole week, and that is unheard of to be sitting around for four days and not play," Robinson said. "I was so anxious to get back on the court whether it is practice or the game. I just could not wait to be back in Allen Fieldhouse again."
Kansas coach Bill Self sensed as much, too. He saw it in practice Friday. He felt in the game Saturday, which is why he stuck with Robinson even after he missed his first three shots Saturday, which included a point-blank miss on a dunk on his first field goal attempt of the night.
"There have been times in the past where I didn't let him play through those things," Self said, "but I was going to do everything I could to let him play through that tonight because I knew he needed to be out there."
Self was also influenced to stick with Robinson because of what he described as an "extra oomph" in the 6-foot-9 forward because he was playing for his mother Saturday.
"I think he had it in practice yesterday and I think he had at shoot around today. He's focused," Self said. "He's been through a lot and it's a unique thing.
"This was an extra special game, not because it was K-State but because it was one where he had his first opportunity to play for him mother."
And once Robinson got on a roll Saturday, he seemed to keep it going. He went for one basket, then another and another. The crowd went crazy and so did Robinson on the inside.
If there was any doubt whether or not he should have been out there, it was gone then.
"I played tonight because I cannot sit around too long," said Robinson, who also lost his grandparents recently. "I know my mother wouldn't want me to sit around crying forever, so I have to keep going on and striving to reach my goals."
Robinson's teammates seemed to enjoy seeing him back on the floor and seemingly turning the page on a tragic week.
"He did really good and I am glad he got off," said junior guard Tyshawn Taylor. "I knew it was only a matter of time, because of his intensity and he plays so hard, so I knew it was only a matter of time before he made those easy ones that he was missing early. I'm happy for him."
But speaking volumes about the type of young man he is, instead of Robinson being happy for himself or his family for the way he played Saturday night, he wanted to take that moment to thank all of the Kansas supporters who have overwhelmingly reached out to him this week.
"The support that I received was beyond amazing, and the support is still coming," said Robinson, who has now been left with the responsibility of taking care of his seven-year-old sister. "I know I cannot physically say thank you to every person that has helped me, but if this could get out I just want to thank the people that have tried to reach out to me and thought about me."