Former Kansas University basketball star Mario Chalmers will be in Lawrence next week to celebrate the opening of Mario’s Closet at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
Kansas University basketball power forward Thomas Robinson reportedly held his own while guarding — and being guarded by — LeBron James in a pick-up game last week at the NBA phenom’s Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio.
“LeBron wasn’t playing full speed,” Robinson, KU’s 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior from Washington, D.C., said modestly in an interview Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse. “I’m pretty sure he could turn it up another notch.”
Robinson, who worked as a counselor at the camp for high school standouts, conceded that James offered some encouraging words at the conclusion of the event.
“He said himself I was strong, so that was a compliment,” Robinson said of the 6-8, 250-pound Miami Heat veteran. “He was cool, way down-to-earth, even more than I thought. I really respect him.
“He’s tweeted me and told me to keep working. I told him I will. I told him to talk for me. I’m trying to make some noises here. He said he will, so I mean hopefully he will,” Robinson added of James singing his praises this upcoming season.
Robinson — his dunk highlighted the Amar’e Stoudemire camp in June in Chicago — also emerged as a standout at the James camp. ESPN announcer Fran Fraschilla, who attended the camp, said in one Twitter post: “UK’s Anthony Davis and Buckeyes’ Jared Sullinger are lotto picks right now (in 2012 NBA Draft) but you BETTER put KU’s Thomas Robinson in there also. A BEAST!!!”
In a personal tweet to Robinson, Fraschilla wrote: “Been bragging on you after that LeBron Camp performance! Keep working hard this summer and enjoy going home to DC!”
ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who also attended the camp, wrote: “Thomas Robinson was among the hardest working and most productive in the camp and has the chance for a really big year for Bill Self.”
“I didn’t see that,” Robinson said in response, “but I busted my butt there so ... I think I have a lot more to do. I have a lot to prove. It’s good to earn the respect of Jay Bilas and Fran Fraschilla, but there’s also a lot of people still doubting my game, so my work is not done.
“I haven’t done anything yet. I am three months from my first game at Kansas, which I’m working for. The summer is good to get my individual accolades up there and to get that attention toward here so people will support our season. I did that. Now it’s about getting ready for my season.”
Up next for Robinson is the adidas Nations Global Experience Aug. 5-8 in Los Angeles. Until then, he’ll continue working out with the Jayhawks while attending summer school.
He’s been impressed with the newcomers, a group that includes forwards Braeden Anderson, Kevin Young, Merv Lindsay and Jamari Traylor and guards Naadir Tharpe and Ben McLemore.
“All those guys are good — Kevin, Merv, Braeden and Jamari all go hard and are physical. They run the floor and are athletic,” Robinson said. “Naadir is one of the smartest players off the pick and roll I’ve seen in a long time. Ben McLemore ... mark my words, he will be great here. He will be a pro sooner or later. Jamari ... I want to say he’s similar to me. He’s high-energy. He’s trying to dunk every time. Merv’s a shooter, a 6-6 shooter, real smooth player. Kevin Young is high energy, I want to say a tweener. He has the potential to do more than (play) the 4 (power forward).”
Camp standouts: Robinson said he was impressed with Ohio State’s Sullinger and Kentucky’s Davis at the camp. Davis also spent some time guarding James in the pick-up game.
“Anthony is quick,” Robinson said. “Sullinger is one of the smartest basketball players I’ve been around. I give respect to the (Morris) twins being smart basketball players. Sullinger is a great player as far as thinking-wise, and he’s getting the 15-footer down. He’s a great passer too. He’s a player I respect at a high level.”
Mum’s the word: Robinson said he won’t be commenting this season about possibly heading to the NBA after his junior year at KU and won’t be talking about personal issues involving his family. That includes an upcoming court custody case in Maryland that will decide whether his sister, Jayla, will continue living with her dad, or the family of the stepbrother of Robinson’s late mom, Lisa.
“No, not at all,” Robinson said of discussing family issues. “I’ll be going home for a little while (before the start of first semester classes).
“I am not thinking about the NBA,” he noted. “I am worrying about winning the Big 12 championship and making our run in the tournament. The NBA is out of the question right now. I am still a junior. I have two more years left in school.”
ESPYs: VCU’s basketball team won an ESPY Award on Wednesday for “Best Upset” of the past year. VCU defeated KU in the Elite Eight en route to a surprise Final Four appearance. Other nominees: Blame beating Zenyatta at the Breeder’s Cup; Fabricio Werdum stopping Fedor Emelianenko in MMA; and the Seattle Seahawks beating the New Orleans Saints in the NFL wildcard game. Last year, Northern Iowa won “Best Upset” for its victory over KU in the second round of the NCAAs.