The funniest lines usually are delivered with straight face and serious tone, and that’s how Kansas basketball coach Bill Self communicated his best quip Thursday during Media Day.
“The twins last year — I don’t know if you guys ever noticed this — they could be frustrating at times,” Self said of Marcus and Markieff Morris.
The coach went on to say that for freshmen the Philadelphia natives actually had good years, but were plagued by inconsistency. Self’s help has arrived.
“One thing that will force them to be more consistent is Thomas Robinson because he’s got a motor, and if they’re not playing at full speed, he’ll run through them or around them,” Self said.
Through them speaks to Robinson’s power, around them to his speed. Most of all, they both speak to his energetic presence, his drive.
Speaking more like a man than a teenager, Robinson came across as someone who took very seriously the role of being the man of the house, a man who takes a professional approach to what he hopes will be his future profession, a man who wants to make a better life for his mother and 6-year-old sister.
A 6-foot-9, 230-pound freshman power forward from Washington, D.C., Robinson has plenty to learn about basketball and has the right approach down. He knows the best way to help his career is to help his team. He understands that minutes are earned, not given. He knows he doesn’t know as much as his coaches and more experienced teammates.
Home is behind him, opportunity upon him. He’s not about to blow the chance he has earned.
“My home is what made me as a person,” Robinson said. “My city is what made me as a person. Seeing the things I saw there growing up is what made me as a person. For me to come out of it to go to college is going to be great for me.”
What was it like growing up in the southeast quadrant of D.C.?
“It is what you make it,” he said. “Make the best of your situation. It was my mom, my little sister and me. We made the best of our situation.”
Now he has left them, with the goal of helping them in the long run. In KU, he has found the most fertile soil in the nation for a young post player. He learns from a position coach, Danny Manning, who mentally was to big men what Magic Johnson was to point guards.
“A genius,” Robinson said of Manning. “He’s a genius down low. He doesn’t want you to go fast at first. He wants you to learn it, perfect it, then comes a time when you can go full speed. He’s all about footwork.”
In practice, Robinson will play either with or against four talented post players (Cole Aldrich, the twins, Jeff Withey) who feature different styles.
“I have no excuse,” Robinson said. “I have no excuse. I have it all right here. That’s what appealed to me. I have all the resources. Everything for me to achieve is right here. I have D. Manning. I have players older than me who are good at it. With D. Manning on my side, I don’t think I can lose. I’m learning things from him I’ve never even seen when it comes to rebounding and playing down low in the post. I have no reason not to succeed.”
Athletes whose attitudes don’t need to be coached up tend to improve at a rapid rate.