Kansas University’s freshmen basketball players — as one might expect — experienced some Opening Night jitters last Tuesday in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I was nervous in the beginning, walking through all the people on the way out (of northwest tunnel onto the court). Everybody was nervous,” KU frosh power forward Thomas Robinson said.
He was speaking for himself and fellow rookies Xavier Henry and Elijah Johnson, who combined for 29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the Jayhawks’ 107-68 rout of Fort Hays State.
How could he tell his buddies were nervous?
“We talked to each other,” Robinson said.
Robinson insists the butterflies disappeared shortly after entering a game in which he scored six points with seven rebounds and three assists.
“Once you got out there and got to playing, it was easy,” said Robinson, who nonetheless showed his anxiousness by picking up two quick fouls.
“Thomas got two in 15 seconds probably. He is trying to get to the level Marcus (Morris) was last year,” KU junior guard Tyrel Reed joked. “We had to get on him a little bit,” he added of teasing the 6-foot-9, 230-pounder from Washington, D.C., for picking up his first foul with 13:16 left in the first half and second foul two seconds later.
“It seems to be the thing ... all the young guys fouling out. They’ll get used to the feel of the game and be fine,” Reed added.
Robinson picked up five fouls in his 13 minutes. Henry, who scored 14 points, fouled out while playing 20 minutes. Johnson, who had nine points, was whistled for two fouls.
“It was from being in a rush, not playing in a proper manner on defense,” Robinson said. “You can always learn from fouls, loose balls I didn’t get, rebounds I didn’t get. I can learn from it all.
“I think I could have done much better. I still feel I played well all around, though. I feel I have a lot of improvement to do on my game, come out and be more efficient as a player.”
He was pleased with Johnson and Henry.
“Outstanding,” he said of how they played. “It’s how I feel about our group. I feel we took on the challenge and came out and played hard.”
KU coach Bill Self said Robinson’s hustle did not come as a surprise.
“Thomas is probably our most consistent effort guy day in and out at least with our big guys,” Self said, noting, “it has rubbed off. Thomas has done as much as anybody to make the (Morris) twins better. He plays at a motor they have got to play at to keep up as far as going after balls. I think Thomas has been very good for our team.”
Robinson sees great potential for the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks.
“We scored over 100 and our main two players didn’t have a great night,” Robinson said of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, who had 19 and 13 points respectively. Aldrich had 13 rebounds, while Collins had four assists and three three-pointers made.
“I feel all around it was a great night. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
KU will conclude the exhibition season Tuesday against Pittsburg State. Tip is 7 p.m., in Allen Fieldhouse.
Thomas introduced in Maine: The Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League on Friday introduced former KU shooting guard Billy Thomas as the first player in the franchise’s history.
Thomas, whose rights were acquired by the Red Claws in the third round of the NBA D-league Expansion Draft, was presented his new No. 12 jersey by president/GM Jon Jennings at a morning news conference in Portland.
“We are so fortunate to have a player and person of the quality of Billy Thomas,” Jennings said. “Billy played in the NBA and came from a quality college program at Kansas. His leadership ability is exactly what a young team needs.”
The 6-foot-5 Thomas is two-time winner of the NBADL’s sportsmanship award.
Last year he averaged 16.1 points and 3.7 assists for league champion Colorado. He has played for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Thomas, 33, also has played in the Philippines, Greece, Italy, Serbia, and Argentina.
Former KU guard Russell Robinson is on the preseason roster of the Reno (Nev.) Bighorns, a team he played for last year. Robinson also reportedly is considering some overseas options.